When the stakes are high, how do you prove to a judge or auditor that a webpage, social media post, or tweet from five years ago is authentic?
PageFreezer is a Vancouver-based company that provides ongoing website and social media archiving that keeps companies in compliance with regulations and in a position of litigation readiness with authenticated, legally admissible social media and website information.
Today, social media and web site archiving are where email archiving was a decade ago, with electronic data laws and regulations becoming more mature and company needs more acute. According to FINRA, SEC, and FTC regulations, companies can be held legally accountable for information on their websites and social media accounts, as they are considered official company publications
Of PageFreezer’s more than 600 customers, the majority are in financial and legal services, among them some of the world’s most prominent.
The software solution operates essentially as a search engine does, crawling a website, following all the links on the homepage, and downloading those pages until it has its own functional replica. The service crawls the site on a daily basis, automatically discovering differences and storing any changes.
The archives are stored in their original formats in a Seattle data center that is compliant with the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements. If the customer prefers, PageFreezer can also be integrated with in-house record management systems.
Legally speaking, any party presenting historical webpages or social media must prove data authenticity, meaning they have to demonstrate that the web content was in fact online at the time specified, and that no alteration has taken place.
This can be done with digital signatures and timestamps. Riedijk explained, “We grab the data set, the meta data, and IP address, and place a digital signature on it. We deliver a package that contains a visual, functional reconstruction in compliance with industry regulations and ready for use in courts.”
Financial Services Come Calling
The company began in 2006 in the Netherlands, Riedijk s home country, after laws arose in Europe that triggered a need for prudence in archiving web information. In 2011, Riedijk moved to Vancouver and launched PageFreezer, a SAAS solution for web and social media archiving that met compliance standards in North America.
Early on, the company angled its service as a litigation-preparedness solution. Large lawsuits had been lost because the specific technical requirements acceptable in court for a terms and conditions page or a tweet were not met. The stakes for not having legally-admissible website and social media records were beginning to rise.
Then a strong market pull arose from the financial services sector, as executives began to search for archiving solutions. In 2012, FINRA came out with regulations requiring companies to immediately put into place a solution to record and retain all social media communications for compliance purposes. As calls came in, Riedijk recognized that PageFreezer also provided a solution for these regulatory compliance needs.
Outside of these verticals, social media records have also been a valuable resource in law enforcement, human resources, and divorce proceedings. The company also offers WebPreserver, a Chrome plugin with cloud-based service that provides a similar solution targeted specifically at law enforcement organizations and legal firms, built to the admissibility requirements found in the E-Sign Act and the Federal Rules of Evidence.
As the regulations for compliance and litigation readiness mature, the company has created a set of best practices for website and social media retention. According to the company, records must 1) be managed so that they can be reproduced in a timely and complete manner, 2) be preserved in whatever medium they were originally produced, 3) be kept for periods of up to seven years, and 4) bear proof of data integrity and authenticity.
With an increased number of lawsuits and audits will come increased awareness, Riedijk believes, and the above best practices will soon become standard practice.
For now, near-term goals for the team at PageFreezer include continued growth of their client base in the financial sector, expansion through partner channels, and expansion to other countries, such as Australia, which has a regulatory environment that fits well with the value that PageFreezer offers.