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How Digital Breadcrumbs and Linked Data are Transforming Investigations

Document Centric Review is Quickly Becoming Antiquated

When it comes to electronic discovery the legal community has been focused mainly on electronic documents. These are things like email and office documents that can be neatly printed to an 8.5”x11” format. The desire is to have something that can be Bates stamped and placed into a tabbed binder. Counter to this document-based methodology the corporate world has monetized social media, smartphone apps and IoT devices, focusing on gathering mounds of digital data. This data, often referred to as our digital breadcrumbs, has spawned an entire industry driven by data science.

Data scientists isolate and analyze segments of targeted data gathered from social media activity, smartphone app and device usage. These digital breadcrumbs are transformed into highly valuable information that allows corporations to understand everything about their target consumer ranging from political preference to online shopping habits; hence the term “Information Age”, referring to the period of time in which we currently live.

However, the Information Age has transformed more than just the corporate business world. It has begun to shape the world of digital evidence. Several crimes have made headlines that demonstrate the value of tracing digital breadcrumbs extracted from data that has been captured from a suspect’s FitBit or Apple watch. This data includes items such as heart rate, distance, WIFI connections, and geolocation information, all of which focused around their date and time stamp information as it correlates to a crime. This evidence has been used both to exonerate suspects as well as convict.

Narrowing your focus to strictly document-based metadata may miss highly relevant information, and more importantly, the context surrounding that information.

This highly relevant data, often referred to as “linked data”, is too important to overlook in the context of an investigation. What is linked data? In simple terms, it is data from multiple sources that can be connected together via its metadata. This data can then be correlated to an individual through their use of a personal device. Metadata is gathered and analyzed using a science known as link analysis. This analysis isolates items like a text message that can be linked to a phone number at a specific location and time, the number of steps an individual took after arriving at a specific location, or a social media post that can be linked to an online profile accessed via a particular smartphone.

Narrowing your focus to strictly document-based metadata may miss highly relevant information, and more importantly, the context surrounding that information. In our next article in this series examining digital breadcrumbs, we will run through an example demonstrating a digital trail of data generated in just a short time period. The data reveals location, actions and connections between individuals that could be highly relevant depending upon the type of investigation.

If you are seeking an affordable solution that simplifies digital investigations and review of digital breadcrumbs, please contact us for more information and arrange a demonstration of ESI Analyst.

photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

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