Electronic discovery (also called e-discovery or ediscovery) refers to any process in which electronic data is sought, located, secured, and searched with the intent of using it as evidence in a civil or criminal legal case. E-discovery can be carried out offline on a particular computer or it can be done in a network. Court-ordered or government sanctioned hacking for the purpose of obtaining critical evidence is also a type of e-discovery.
In the process of electronic discovery, data of all types can serve as evidence. This can include text, images, calendar files, databases, spreadsheets, audio files, animation, Web sites and computer programs. Email can be an especially valuable source of evidence in civil or criminal litigation, because people are often less careful in these exchanges than in hard copy correspondence such as written memos and postal letters.