A Court recently held that it was not “impossible” to produce Gmail in native file format. The more accurate holding might have been “in a reasonably useable form.” Keaton v. Hannum, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60519, at *4-5 (S.D. Ind. Apr. 29, 2013).
Here is the relevant section from the case:
Zook has argued that she cannot produce her Gmail files in a .pst format because no native format exists for Gmail (i.e., Google) email accounts. The Court finds this to be incorrect based on Exhibit 2 provided by Zook in her Opposition Brief. [Dkt. 92 at Ex. 2 (Ball, Craig: Latin: To Bring With You Under Penalty of Punishment , EDD Update (Apr. 17, 2010)).] Exhibit 2 explains that, although Gmail does not support a “Save As” feature to generate a single message format or PST, the messages can be downloaded to Outlook and saved as .eml or .msg files, or, as the author did, generate a PDF Portfolio — “a collection of multiple files in varying format that are housed in a single, viewable and searchable container.” [Id .] In fact, Zook has already compiled most of her archived Gmail emails between her and Keaton in a .pst format when Victim.pst was created. It is not impossible to create a “native” file for Gmail emails.
Keaton, at *4-5.
Bow Tie Thoughts
I contacted my friend Charlie Kaupp at Digital Strata for his thoughts on producing gmail in native file format. Here is what he said:
– Downloading to Outlook won’t result in a true native collection, but rather a copy of the native, so should be accounted for as a copy.
– Downloading to Outlook requires the user’s login and password, so is not a viable option for uncooperative custodians or for long lists of collections.
– There are other tools that will allow you to create a direct IMAP connection and download that directly into other formats with full logging, which may be more defensible than the Outlook option.
– PDF portfolios are not native copies and will result in lots of lost metadata. Converted PST or MSG is the best for preserving metadata.
Webmail creates many challenges on how to collect the relevant ESI. Consulting with an expert is always a good plan to determine a course of action that is proportional to the case. Many things lawyers believe to be “impossible” are well within the means of a data collection expert.