This is part II of a two-part post. Read part I here.

The metaverse is a vision of what many in the tech industry believe is the next iteration of the internet: a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space where humans experience life in ways they could not in the physical world.

The metaverse is transforming how people interact and create content, introducing new dimensions of challenges and opportunities for eDiscovery processes. As this virtual realm evolves, so must the techniques and strategies used to collect, preserve, and review data for legal purposes. Let’s delve into the intricacies of navigating eDiscovery within the dynamic metaverse landscape.

Understanding Metaverse ESI

The electronically stored information within the metaverse can be categorized into three primary types: content, actions, and feelings.

  1. Content: Metaverse environments, referred to as “worlds,” are created by users and offer diverse spaces for socializing, gaming, and more. These worlds can contain chat logs, direct messages, avatars, and multimedia. Additionally, administrators manage access and may control entry to authorized individuals, ensuring context and relevance.
  2. Actions: Users’ behaviors and interactions within the metaverse are essential to consider in eDiscovery. However, since interactions can be ephemeral, capturing these actions requires specific mechanisms. Some metaverse providers have addressed this issue by continually recording the last few minutes of what a user sees. This video is constantly overwritten but can be produced as evidence of the most recent actions a user has taken.

Users can also proactively record a video of an interaction or take “photographs” of the world and the users they are interacting with as well as maintain chat-based conversations that can also be discovered.

  1. Feelings: A unique aspect of the metaverse is its immersive quality, evoking emotions and sensations in users. This emotional layer adds complexity to eDiscovery. Haptic feedback technology, which brings physical sensations to virtual experiences, contributes to the immersive environment and may have implications for legal review.

Collection Challenges and Strategies

Collecting ESI from the metaverse presents distinct challenges due to its decentralized and cloud-based format.

  1. Cloud-based Data: Data within the metaverse is often streamed from cloud servers, rather than stored locally on devices. This requires cooperation from metaverse providers to access and extract relevant information. Collaboration is essential to ensure effective data collection.
  2. Lack of Export Features: Unlike established social media and cloud platforms, metaverse software providers generally lack features for exporting data. This hinders efficient data collection for eDiscovery purposes.
  3. Proactive Review: Passive collection of metaverse ESI may not suffice for thorough investigations. Proactive reviews within the live metaverse environment, under controlled conditions, might be necessary to obtain a comprehensive understanding of user behaviors and interactions.

Meeting the Challenges: Evolving Review Strategies

Traditional eDiscovery review methods must adapt to accommodate the unique qualities of metaverse ESI.

  1. Immersive Review: The immersive nature of the metaverse demands innovative review strategies. Unlike traditional document review, some cases might require reviewers to engage with 3D content in virtual headsets to fully grasp the emotional context and significance of user actions.
  2. Emotional Perspective: Since the metaverse environment can evoke strong emotions, understanding the emotional impact of interactions is vital. Reviewing incidents involving emotional elements may necessitate immersion in the metaverse to gain a comprehensive perspective.
  3. Balancing Privacy and Investigation: While proactive reviews offer deeper insights, they must be conducted with respect for users’ privacy and nonrelevant data. Striking this balance is crucial for maintaining ethical and legal standards.

In the evolving landscape of the metaverse, eDiscovery practitioners must collaborate with legal experts, technology developers, and metaverse providers to establish effective methodologies for collecting, preserving, and reviewing data. As the metaverse continues to shape the digital realm, the exploration of novel eDiscovery processes remains a dynamic and ongoing endeavor.

If you find your organization is facing legal requirements requiring forensic collection, analysis, or review of data from any source – from network stores, email, cloud applications, or the metaverse – contact ProSearch.

Filed under:

Damir Kahvedžić

Damir Kahvedžić

Damir Kahvedžić is a technology expert specializing in providing clients with technical assistance in eDiscovery and Forensics cases. He has a PhD in Cybercrime and Digital Forensics Investigations from the Centre for Cybercrime Investigation in UCD and holds a first-class Honours B.Sc in Computer Science. Experienced in the use of industry leading software, such as Relativity, EnCase, NUIX, Cellebrite, Clearwell, and Brainspace, Damir is also a PRINCE2 and PECB ISO 21500 qualified project manager. Damir has published both academic and technical papers at several international conferences and journals including the European Academy of Law, Digital Forensic Research Workshop (DFRWS), Journal of Digital Forensics and Law amongst others.