Audio Discovery and the Importance of Meta-Data
I’ve written in the past about the importance of collecting meta-data to support your audio discovery projects, but recently this has come to light yet again as a critical component in managing the overall time and cost of these projects.
What’s driving this? Major regulators, including the SEC, CFPB, CFTC, FSA and others are now starting to ask more and more for audio recordings as part of their investigations. The LIBOR matter really started the snowball rolling, and since that time it’s been chugging downhill faster and faster, and growing bigger and bigger. What this means is that these audio requests are becoming significant in size.
A few years ago, projects of 1,000-3,000 hours were common. Within the last year that has become more like 3,000-5,000 hours. And I know of at least one project that has up to 70,000 hours, and another that could ultimately have more than 100,000 hours! It’s definitely on an upward trend.
While Nexidia certainly has the scalability to handle projects of this size, we would also be the first to help you explore ways to cull the content down to a smaller set that will reduce both the costs and the time to review all this content. And the best place to start this culling process is with meta-data.
As noted in this earlier post, most call logging systems are going to capture some type of meta-data that will help you cull your audio content down to size. Most common is the call date and time, some sort of agent or channel information, and then possibly some information such as outbound number dialed, inbound caller ID and the like. Let’s explore what we see as the most critical piece of meta-data and different ways to get it: Agent, or in the legal parlance, Custodian.
Most call loggers will capture this information for every call. Companies that use this information to help manage quality or compliance will very often code the actual agent’s name into the system, so the meta-data comes out ready to use; every call to or from that agent’s phone will have his/her name assigned in the meta-data.
More often, we see that the call logger has captured the “channel” or “station” that is assigned to a particular desk or phone, but will not have captured the actual name of the user. If this is the case, the first step is to see if the client has some type of mapping that ties the channel to a particular user. If that is the case, then when processing the meta-data we can simply use this mapping to create the appropriate entry for Agent. That’s still a fairly straightforward process to manage.
The real challenge comes if there is no such map, and especially if there is a large body of calls that spans a great deal of time, where different agents may have come and gone. In this instance, the best approach is to isolate calls for each of the known channels, and within known time blocks if appropriate. Simply listening to a good sample of calls for each channel (and time period) will generally help you understand who “owned” this channel, and will usually even get you a named individual if you don’t have a list to start from. There is admittedly some iterative work involved here, as you may need to work with the client to identify speakers, but this allows you to build the Channel-to-Agent map that can then be used to process the rest of the calls accordingly.
So if you are facing a big audio discovery project, pay careful attention during the collection phase to ensuring you capture as much of the meta-data as possible. It will pay great dividends downstream in managing the overall cost and complexity of the project.
When it comes to audio evidence, the answer is oftentimes “NO!”
And this is unfortunate, because audio evidence (or “sound recordings” as the FRCP likes to say) are becoming a critical source of discovery content in both regulatory and litigation matters. So the purpose of this blog is to help you learn what Audio Discovery is all about and how to do it in the most efficient and cost-effective ways.
As your Bloggist, I bring 20+ years of experience in audio technologies to the table, first in the old Ma Bell system and then later with companies like Cingular Wireless and now Nexidia. So I’ve witnessed first-hand many of the revolutions in digital audio that are now dramatically changing how you manage this important discovery component. In this blog, I will help you navigate these .WAVs so you can be an audio expert too. And if you didn’t get that pun, even more reason to come back often!Jeff Schlueter
VP/GM, Legal Markets