An Open Letter From COO Andreas Mueller

I feel compelled to speak up, as the stakes are quite high: People rely on the digital forensics community to determine market-changing outcomes in litigation. Mistakes are not just painful – they can be life altering.

For the past twenty-five years, I’ve had the opportunity to help shape digital forensics into what it has become today –and I take great pride in our progress and innovation as a community. But for the first time in my career, I am afraid our industry is stuck on a plateau. And there’s a lot on the line -- we risk stagnation, accuracy, and most importantly, the legitimacy of our community and offerings.

At the heart of the issue is trust. We intrinsically trust digital eDiscovery platforms and the results they provide, often without understanding how they work or testing their validity. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to legal tech – the same thing can be seen across multiple pockets of the software market. We trust terms like “proprietary tech,” blindly accepting the black box of results. We pour money into “cutting-edge cloud solutions”, without performing due diligence on what’s being offered, and if it’s truly cloud native. We then pass results onto people, businesses, and other organizations that rely on us for important outcomes.

While trust is inherently good, it can also backfire – and I’m afraid that’s what’s happening with some eDiscovery platforms. Companies have stopped innovating. Users are losing – sometimes big time. It only takes a few inaccurate or missing results to have a significant impact on litigation. When this happens, it is a wakeup call.

If you’ve experienced that wakeup call, I empathize with you. More importantly, I urge you to learn from it, stop settling for the status quo and move forward with a new focus on transparency and innovation.

We live in a time when incredible things are happening around us with technology. We have all seen the major breakthroughs in AI, cloud, security and more. It is easier than ever to innovate and advance our industry.

Downstreem was established to address the outdated approaches in the market such as on-site tech stacks, profit-first models, and black-box forensics. The recent wake-up call has highlighted the need to integrate tools and technologies that are well-understood while carefully considering their limitations and utilizing them in the right way. For instance, cloud-based systems like Microsoft Azure offer frameworks for advanced AI integration and global, rapid deployment and management. We operate cloud-first, providing enhanced transparency and security through a secure global framework.

This approach is not exclusive to Downstreem, as any provider can build on transparent tech and use it correctly, given the nature of today's leading technology. And we need to force the issue. As new devices, platforms, mobile apps, and other advances continue to change the way people communicate, our work becomes more complicated. We need to change alongside everyone else.

Having been in the space for two decades and worn hats such as a forensics analyst, investigator and testifying expert with a deep background in eDiscovery/digital forensics and a founding partner of Downstreem, I see the problem and the opportunity to change it from many different perspectives. No matter how I think about it, and which hat I put on to do so, I come to the same conclusion - we musttest before we trust, or we risk inaccurate and incomplete results that can have a detrimental impact on litigation outcomes, eroding the trust and legitimacy of our community. It is our responsibility to ensure that we maintain the highest standards of transparency and accuracy, performing due diligence on new technologies and platforms to ensure their validity and effectiveness. Failure to do so puts the very foundation of our work at risk and jeopardizes the trust that people and organizations place in us.


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