Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sarah Palin's Emails

First and foremost let me say that I did not (and do not) expect there to be anything shocking in the Palin emails.  I expect the media to waste a ton of money, time, and attention on them.

It is a horrible state of affairs and the blame should be squarely pasted on those responsible:

Sarah Palin and the State of Alaska.

Yes, they are the ones to blame.  Basically, they did the equivalent of tattooing a live pig with a check and delivering it to the court to pay their fine.  Then they get upset when people pay attention to what they did.  They acted like spoiled children and deserve all the crap they are getting.  People have said if Obama got this attention, he never would have been elected.  I don't believe this (in large part because he DID get that kind of attention - anyone remember a birth certificate and pastor), but that is not the point. The point is he would not have acted as poorly as Palin or the State of Alaska did.

How can I say that?  Well I happen to work for a major law firm and my job is to deal with electronic discovery.   I can tell you that the average email is 1.5 pages long, and about a gigabyte of email files has about 100,000 pages (excluding attachments).  This is much smaller than the average Excel file that takes up 50 pages when printed, but the excel is less dense - one gigabyte of Excel has closer to 166,000 pages.  A mere 4,000 pages of should be about 250,000 MB.  Less if they zipped it up (not recommended - that makes my job harder).  It would fit on a single CD, not even DVD. 

In a typical lawsuit, we get many DVDs.  It is not that unsual for us to get a hard drive with 250 or more Gig of data on it.  A certain high profile Ponzi scheme I worked on involved over 1 million pages, not 24,000.   The judge gives a time limit of months not YEARS (State of Alaska) to get it.    Of course, most businesses would fire someone that choose to use outside emails (Palin) for business purposes.  Especially since she admitted she did it mainly to make it harder to get her emails. Anyone so unethical as to try and get around disclosure laws should not be in a position of power.

So how do companies comply with a month when Alaska found it hard to comply in two years?  The company hires people to do it.  Outside firms volunteered to do this for free for the state of Alaska, but they refused.  They were wired about confidential information that they had the legal right to with-hold getting out.  It's not like businesses are worried about confidential information getting out.  WHOOPS, they are.  In fact, they even have a term "Clawback"  for when someone mistakenly releases confidential information that they want back.  Yes, lawfirms do in fact return that information.   All of that happens within a couple of months.

There are many reasons why corporations use Electronic Discovery vendors to supply the documents.  It allows us to generate a bunch of metadata and do searches for things like dates and to look for BCC as well as CC and TO.   It lets us weed out duplicates (as in when I send an email to 20 people, their are 20 copies of the same email floating around, and we don't need 20, we just need one).  The vendor can TIFF (print to tiff files instead of to paper) the files, which allows you to prevent any hidden data from showing up.  There are good and legal reasons to do this - when you read the emails to make sure they did not contain stuff that was attorney/client privileged you likely just checked the final version, not an earlier draft that might be hidden, but recoverable.

What I am trying to say is that the State of Alaska definitely had reasons for screwing over the papers and t public, but not GOOD reasons.   The existing Electronic Discovery business already has solutions for ALL of the issues that the State of Alaska claimed were "insurmountable".  They just refused to pay a vendor to do it in a month, insisting on doing it themselves over 2 years.   I can also tell you that just paying people to do it for two years almost certainly GUARANTEED that the state spent more money than if they had hired a vendor for two months.

They even could have paid two sets of lawyers to double check and make sure they were not sending out stuff they did not have to, all in 4 months.  All cheaper than what they did.

As a result of Sarah Palins' direct attempt to circumvent the law, and the state's refusal to use outside help, instead of burning a single DVD and sending it via Fed Ex, they printed out 24,000 pieces of paper and made the newspapers and public come to Alaska and pick it up.

So yeah, someone made a big deal out of nothing.  But it wasn't the media.  It was a bunch of Alaskans that tried to thumb their nose at the law.  They deserve all of the negative attention - not because of what was in the emails but because of their childish attempts to avoid their legal requirements.  If a cop pulls you over and you throw a bag of oregano out the window, don't be surprised if he handcuffs you while he spends 30 minutes searching for the bag.

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