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Electronically stored information

(also ESI)

Electronically stored information definition

Electronically stored information (ESI) is a legal term for any data stored in electronic form. It is most often encountered in the context of electronic discovery (e-discovery) — the parties need to collect and give each other all relevant electronically stored information during the discovery phase of legal proceedings.

To make sure that no evidence falls through the cracks, the definition of ESI is intentionally left very broad. ESI does not just cover files — it also covers metadata (like size and creation time) that may reveal the intentions of the parties. ESI can be extracted from any electronic storage media, including hard drives, solid-state drives, optical discs, USB drives, memory cards, and network-attached storage devices.

See also: log file, proprietary information

Examples of electronically stored information

  • Text documents such word processing files, spreadsheets, and presentations.
  • Email messages, attachments, and all related metadata (such as timestamps).
  • JPEG, PNG, GIF, and other images.
  • Audio and video, including MP3, WAV, MP4, and AVI files.
  • Structured data stored in database systems.
  • Social media content like posts, uploaded images and videos, and any related metadata (even likes and comments).
  • HTML files and other web content.