Ediscovery 101 For Collaboration: What do I need to know about using Slack’s corporate export versus the discovery API?



As the world embraces a more collaborative way of working and uses new applications like Slack to communicate with one another, there is a corollary impact on other areas of the business such as what are the differences between the Slack corporate export and Slack Discovery API?



Okay, you’re convinced that Slack data could be relevant and discoverable. You know it’s going to be a challenge to get your data out of Slack and in front of an ediscovery attorney, but you’re ready to take it on. But what now? How do you export information from Slack, and how do you use it after you have?

There are two main ways to export data out of Slack: the corporate export and the Slack discovery API.


While Slack’s Free and Standard plans only allow exports of information from public channels, the Plus plan enables corporate export, which allows a Slack owner to export both public and private channels as well as direct messages as required and permitted by law. Users must apply to Slack to request a corporate export, but once their export is approved, they can set it up to recur periodically.

A corporate export produces files in the JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) format, which includes the metadata for each line of communication as well as the communication itself. That metadata includes information about who wrote a post, when, and in what channel, along with other data fields. This means that a one-line message can take pages of text and code to fully display. That, needless to say, is not very helpful when it comes time for an attorney to sit down and review the messages within a channel.

The corporate export does not include any embedded files, though it does provide links to access those files.

One important caveat: when an organization has enabled corporate exports, Slack automatically sets its file retention settings to save all messages and files. This setting cannot be modified unless corporate export is disabled. In other words, if you’re relying on corporate export, you’re stuck keeping everything that’s ever been said in your Slack—risks notwithstanding.


When an organization upgrades their Slack to the Enterprise Grid plan, they unlock access to Slack’s discovery API, which can be used with third-party applications—like Hanzo—to export and use Slack information for ediscovery and other purposes. The discovery API is automatically enabled with Enterprise Grid; users do not have to apply for permission to export data and can export from any channel or direct message.

As with the corporate export, the discovery API exports data in the JSON format, but unlike the corporate export, exports completed using the discovery API include any embedded files, regardless of their type.

Additionally—and importantly, for organizations that care about information governance and defensible deletion of outdated information—Enterprise Grid users can adjust their message-retention settings without affecting their ability to export data through the discovery API.

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