Can Smartphones be Used in the E-Discovery Process?

With the number of individuals owning a smartphone in 2019 expected to reach 2.5 billion, the legal industry cannot overlook the tremendous role of smartphones in the modern e-discovery process. Here, the data forensics specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics explain how smartphones can be used to collect incriminating evidence during legal investigations.

Smartphones Transform the E-Discovery Process E-discovery, also known as electronic discovery, is the process of collecting and analyzing electronically-stored information (ESI) for investigative purposes. With the innovation of smartphones, which are capable of storing a wealth of information on its owner, e-discovery has evolved to include the collection and analysis of these devices, and much of what is retained on a smartphone is legally admissible in court. While the societal impact of smartphones continues to influence the e-discovery process, investigating smartphones for ESI collection and analysis during litigation often proves to be critical to a case. With most individuals nowadays owning a personal smartphone, a company-issued smartphone or both, the role of smartphones in digital data collection has never been more relevant.

Potentially pertinent data that could be useful includes text messages, chats, contacts, emails, photos, vidoes, notes, voice memos, search engine history, calendars and much more. Even information stored on downloaded apps, such as GroupMe or WhatsApp, can be useful during the compilation and analysis of potentially incriminating information. On top of the information that can be found directly on a smartphone, information stored on the Cloud as well as on deleted history can be discoverable.

Smartphone E-Discovery Defines New Legal Standards A growing number of lawsuits rely on information stored on smartphones to reach a verdict. For instance, unless information is privileged or not relevant to the specific case, documents, photos, notes and other information stored on the Cloud can be collected during the discovery process, as seen in the 2015 case Wilson v. Conair Corp. In addition, Gladue v. Saint Francis Medical Center brought the issue of document preservation to light after a smartphone user deleted stored information as a result of the impending lawsuit—information that was still recoverable despite being cleared from the user’s device. As more trials investigate information preserved on or deleted from a smartphone, more legal standards are established outlining the extent of information that can be discoverable as well as what investigative measures violate an individual’s privacy.

All Smartphones are Different An aspect of e-discovery that is unique to smartphones is that information contained on a smartphone or tablet is not a direct copy of information stored elsewhere—all smartphones contain unique evidence that could be used in the court of law, although this information could be stored in a multitude of locations including in pictures, emails, text messages, notes, voice memos and more. While this may seem to complicate the job of a computer forensics specialist, it only necessitates the role of smartphones in modern e-discovery even more, which allows computer forensics investigators to continually reach new heights in the industry.

The Computer Forensics Specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics Remain on the Cutting-Edge of Smartphone E-Discovery While the intricacies and boundaries of smartphone e-discovery are still being defined, data forensics specialists know more about navigating information stored on smartphones than ever before. The data forensics specialists at Atlantic Data Forensics have extensive experience collecting, analyzing and producing ESI to be used during litigation and extend their expertise to smartphone e-discovery. If you are involved in a lawsuit that requires retrieving potentially incriminating information stored on a personal or company-issued smartphone, contact Atlantic Data Forensics today.