How Do I Use Gmail for eDiscovery? [12 FAQs]

09 April 2022 by Ross eDiscovery gmail

Takeaway: Google Takeout lets you download your Gmail mailbox as an MBOX file via a download link or send it to another cloud service. It’s easy to use, secure, and fast. And with the right eDiscovery software, you’ll also be able to protect all your email metadata.

Google Takeout lets you download a backup of your Gmail data. And this is perfect for setting up an eDiscovery case.

Google Takeout is a data retrieval tool that lets you import/export data from a range of Google products. For example, you can download data from your Google Maps location history, Google Fit, assorted apps you’ve used (e.g., Picasa), and even comments you’ve left on YouTube videos. This is useful for things like freeing up space on your Google Drive or backing up important files on other cloud services. But it’s also a convenient way to transfer email from Gmail to your eDiscovery application.

You’ll use a simple 2-step process: Use Takeout to export your emails, and then upload them to your eDiscovery software.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1. Download your Gmail data as an MBOX file.

  1. First, go to Google Takeout. You’ll find a list of apps from which you can export data.
  2. Click the ‘Deselect All’ button on the top-right to uncheck the export option for unrelated apps. (Google Takeout loads with all these apps set for export.)
  3. Scroll down to the Gmail app, click the checkbox next to it, and then scroll down to the bottom to click the ‘Next Step’ button.
  4. Follow the instructions, and Google will pack your emails into an MBOX file, giving you some download options.

Step 2: Upload the MBOX file into your eDiscovery software.

With cloud-based software like GoldFynch, all you’ll need to do is drag and drop your MBOX file into your eDiscovery browser. GoldFynch will unzip and process it, use optical character recognition (OCR) to extract image text, and give you essential review tools to explore your emails. Importantly, it keeps the link between emails and their attachments, so it’s easier to track file families. (Learn more about reviewing your emails.)

And if you’re wondering how all this works, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions.

Here’s all the starter information you’ll need to get going.

1. What email data gets exported?

Your Gmail download will include the following email elements:

  • Body content and attachments of emails from each category tab in your web browser.
  • Headers, signatures, read receipts.
  • Labels: The custom labels you create, and default labels like Inbox, Unread, Sent, Starred, Drafts, Important, Chat, Trash, Spam, Archived, Scheduled/Snoozed, and Muted.
  • Template responses and vacation response messages.
  • System data like user settings, filters, blocked addresses, forwarding addresses, delegated/shared addresses, other account addresses, the end time of a snoozed message, etc. (Note: Deleted data won’t get exported. **To protect your privacy, Google has an automated process to safely and completely destroy all data or Google activity you choose to delete. So, anything that’s been purged from your trash folder won’t be included in your export.)

2. Can I choose which emails to download?

Yes, you can choose to download emails from only a few specific folders instead of your entire mailbox.

3. How much data can I export?

There’s no limit to how much you can export but Google treats exports differently depending on their sizes. For example, exports larger than 2 GB get zipped using a zip64 format which some older operating systems can’t open. So, you might have to download special software to unzip the file. Also, exports larger than 50 GB automatically get split into multiple files. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it adds an extra step to the unzipping processes because the split files will need to be stitched back together.

4. How long does the download take?

It can take from a few minutes to a few days, depending on how many files you export and how large they are. As a reference, it takes about 3 minutes to archive and download approximately 175 MB of data.

5. In what format are the downloaded emails stored?

Your data will be stored as an MBOX file packed within a ZIP or TGZ container file (you’ll choose which). ZIPs and TGSz are virtually the same thing, except that ZIPs are more common with Windows, and TGZs with the Linux operating system. So, if you’re using a TGZ file in Windows, you’ll likely need to download a third-party application to open it.

6. How do I access the downloaded file?

As part of the download process, you’ll be asked to select your download method. You can choose to get a download link or have the data sent directly to another cloud platform. Note that you can download the file only 5 times with the download link. After that, you’ll need to restart the whole process from scratch.

The link is valid for 7 days, after which you’ll need to restart the export process. Note that even if your link expires, all your original emails remain untouched.

8. What happens to my original emails after I export them?

Exporting emails only creates a copy of your data. So your original emails remain untouched – whatever happens to the downloads.

9. Can I set up a real-time, continuous export of emails?

No, but Google lets you set up a recurring download process every two months for an entire year. You’ll be able to choose this option when you’re setting up your first download (covered in questions 1, above).

10. Can I download data from Google Workspace?

That depends on your Workspace set-up and what data you want to download. You’ll need to contact your Workspace administrator for permission.

11. Will email labels automatically be reapplied when I open my downloaded emails?

It depends. Gmail preserves your labels using the IMAP ‘X-Gmail-Labels’ header in your download file. But whether they automatically get reapplied will depend on the software you use to open and view your downloaded emails.

12. Will my email metadata get changed?

Not if you take the right precautions. Since your emails are packed within an MBOX file, their metadata isn’t touched during the download. And secure eDiscovery applications like GoldFynch protect metadata even after you unpack the emails and start reviewing them (Learn why protecting metadata is so important.)

Remember, you’ll need to partner Google Takeout with reliable eDiscovery software to keep email eDiscovery simple and secure.

GoldFynch is an eDiscovery service that pairs well with Google Takeout. It has all the review tools you’ll need, as well as a few perks.

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB) without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?