Don’t overlook smartphones, tablets when doing discovery in litigation

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The amount of time the average American spends daily on their smartphone (not including voice calls) has increased from 46 Minutes in 2011 to 3 hours and 8 minutes in 2016.  It’s estimated we’ll add another 10 minutes in 2017.   During the same period the amount of time we spend on our desktop / laptop computers has decreased from 2 hours and 20 minutes in 2011 to 2 hours and 11 minutes today.  That downward trend will continue next year as we rely on our mobile devices more and our computers less. These statistics are from a study published by eMarketer.com.

The point here is if you are doing discovery in a legal matter, it’s no longer enough to simply request forensic review of the computers.  You will be missing a majority of the daily digital communications and user generated content if you fail to do a forensic review of the smartphones and tablets.  Mobile devices also have two distinct advantages in discovery in that they are personal and portable.   Being personal, you are reasonably assured that user content on a mobile device was generated by the person who uses that device.  They are generally not shared by multiple family or office members as is often the case with personal computers.  Being portable, they are generally on the person of the person who uses them.  This is great because they all have Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers built-in, and they keep a running log of where the mobile device has been, and when it was there.  Think of how useful this can be in family law and personal injury litigation.

Now the bad news: mobile devices generally do not store communications data and certain other user-generated content in hard drives or other quasi-permanent storage media and are therefore more likely than computers to overwrite deleted data, and to lose data if not handled properly.  Using the wrong software or technique is much more likely to alter / delete data on a mobile device than on a computer.  The software and hardware required to properly examine a mobile device costs thousands of dollars and requires nearly a hundred hours of training to use properly.  This is not something you can do yourself reliably, nor a service you want to get from a computer repair store. That is why you should obtain the services of a certified mobile device examiner on every case that requires discovery from mobile devices.

Given the wealth of personal communications data (SMS, MMS, Chats, Email, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.), photos, videos, voicemails, GPS data, and other application specific data contained on mobile devices, an attorney might be seen as less than a zealous advocate for neglecting vigorous discovery of mobile devices and the data contained therein.

At Abrams Cyber Law & Forensics LLC we are ready to help you with state of the art hardware and software and the expertise needed to obtain all the data possible from the whole range of smartphones and tablets.

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