Tag Archives: investigation

Discovery Templates for Social Media Evidence

Book coverAs a follow-up to the highly popular Q&A last week featuring DLA attorneys Joshua Briones and Ana Tagvoryan, they both have graciously allowed us to distribute a few of their social media discovery templates found in the appendix of their book:  Social Media as Evidence: Cases, Practice Pointers and Techniques, published by the American Bar Association, available for purchase online from the ABA here.

The first template is deposition questions relating to social media evidence. The second is a sample of special interrogatories. They can be accessed at this link. Thanks again to Joshua and Ana for their insightful interview, and for providing these resources.  Their book contains many more such templates and practice tips, including sample document requests, proposed jury instructions, client litigation hold memorandums with a detailed preservation checklist, preservation demand letters, and much more.

In other social discovery news, the ABA Journal this month published an insightful piece on social media discovery, featuring attorney Ralph Losey, with a nice mention of X1 Social Discovery. In a key excerpt, the ABA Journal acknowledges that “there is a pressing need for a tool that can monitor and archive everything a law firm’s client says and does on social media.”  The article also noted that more than 41% of firms surveyed in Fulbright’s 2013 annual Litigation Trends report, acknowledged they preserved and collected such data to satisfy litigation and investigation needs, which was an increase from 32% the prior year.

Another important publication, Compliance Week, also highlighted social media discovery, where Grant Thornton emphasizes their use of X1 Social Discovery as part of the firms anti-fraud and data leakage toolset. Incidentally,  when determining whether a given eDiscovery tool is in fact a leading solution in its class, in our view it is important to look at how many consulting firms are actually utilizing the technology, as consulting firms tend to be sophisticated buyers, who actually use the tools in “the front lines.” By our count we have over 400 paid install sites of X1 Social Discovery and over half of those – 223 to be exact – are eDiscovery and other digital investigation consulting firms. We believe this is a key testament to the strength of our solution, given the use by these early adopters.

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Filed under Best Practices, eDiscovery & Compliance, Social Media Investigations

Social Media Evidence at the Center of the A-Rod Suspension

Earlier this month, Major League Baseball took the unprecedented step of suspending a star player, Alex Rodriguez, for two years due alleged illegal use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). A-RodWhile the suspension of one of baseball’s greatest players of all time made the headlines, the critical role social media evidence played in tying “A-Rod” to Biogenesis, the company which allegedly provided him with the PEDs, is an important sub-story. While we are not at liberty to discuss any details of the social media investigation software used by any of the parties, this Associated Press report describes a detailed, thorough and highly professional investigation of the social media evidence involved.

Specifically, investigators collected key evidence from publically available Facebook posts and Tweets from associates of the targets, which apparently proved to be the most effective source of evidence. Per the AP: “Baseball investigators examined the Facebook pages of (Biogenesis founder Anthony) Bosch and Porter Fisher, the former Biogenesis associate who gave documents to the newspaper. They began to sketch out which people they were friends with, and which of those friends posted photos of athletes or mentioned athletes. Each link led to new loops that provided leads.”

In response to the investigation, MLB players’ union general counsel David Prouty noted that social media evidence “adds a layer of proof that certainly wasn’t available many years ago.”

This type of thorough investigation of publically available social media evidence is only possible with best practices technology that enables scalable and automated collection of up to millions of items preserved and organized in a single case in an instantly searchable and reviewable format.

Given its very high profile and the high stakes involved (The suspension could cost A-Rod over $100 million) the A-Rod case represents a seminal development in the field of social media and Internet investigations. According to the media reports, this is not a situation where social media evidence merely served a supporting role, but was a difference-maker that apparently formed the basis of the suspension.

No need to comment further.

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Live Social Media Evidence Capture from Today’s Vegas Strip Shooting

Unfortunately, a tragic event transpired this morning in Las Vegas leaving three people dead and at least three others injured after a shooting and fiery six-vehicle crash along the Strip. According to reports, at about 4:20 a.m. someone in an SUV opened fire into a Maserati that had stopped at a light. The Maserati moved into the intersection at Flamingo Road and collided with a taxi, starting a chain of crashes that involved four other vehicles. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Given the criminal investigation and civil liability implications of this event, we wanted to demonstrate the new important capabilities of X1 Social Discovery to immediately identify, preserve and display geolocated Tweets (and often Instagram posts) at or near the scene immediately before, during and after the incident. X1 Social Discovery is now able to map a given location, such as a city block or even a full metropolitan area, and search the entire public Twitter feed to identify any geolocated tweets that have been made in the past three days (sometimes longer) within that designated area, as well as to capture any new tweets within that area going forward. As illustrated below, this capability is extremely useful for law enforcement, corporate security and civil litigators.

When we learned of the Vegas incident, we mapped the general area of the strip  and within seconds, all the recent Tweets from the past several hours were populated within the grid and collected within X1 Social Discovery.

Accident 4

From there, we were able to sort those tweets within the interface and identify some key Tweets made immediately after the incident, such as this post:

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We are able to sort and identity the exact time (in GMT) of the posts in question as well as associated metadata.

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Here is another post below. Both this example and the one above contain notable intel in the comments, suggesting the possible identity of one of the victims, as well as a reference to another posted picture on Instagram. This reflects the utility of X1 Social Discovery’s ability to collect not just the social media post, but the comments thereto in real-time.

Accident 1

This feature can also be employed proactively, to map an area around a school, an embassy, an oil drilling facility overseas, or other critical infrastructure assets to collect and store any geolocated tweets in real time. But of course in order to take full advantage of this ability to gather key evidence such as the evidence, posted above, you need to own the software at the time of the incident.

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The Global De-Centralized Enterprise: An Un-Met eDiscovery Challenge

Enterprises with data situated within a multitude of segmented networks across North America and the rest of the world face unique challenges for eDiscovery and compliance-related investigation requirements. In particular, the wide area networks of large project engineering, oil & gas, and systems integration firms typically contain terabytes of geographically disparate information assets in often harsh operating environments with very limited network bandwidth. Information management and eDiscovery tools that require data centralization or run on expensive and inflexible hardware appliances cannot, by their very nature, address critical project information in places like Saudi Arabia, China, or the Alaskan North Slope.

Despite vendor marketing hype, network bandwidth constraints coupled with the requirement to migrate data to a single repository render traditional information management and eDiscovery tools ineffective to address de-centralized global enterprise data. As such, the global decentralized enterprise represents a major gap for in-house eDiscovery processes, resulting in significant expense and inefficiencies. The case of U.S. ex rel. McBride v. Halliburton Co. [1]  illustrates this pain point well. In McBride, Magistrate Judge John Facciola’s instructive opinion outlines Halliburton’s eDiscovery struggles to collect and process data from remote locations:

Since the defendants employ persons overseas, this data collection may have to be shipped to the United States, or sent by network connections with finite capacity, which may require several days just to copy and transmit the data from a single custodian . . . (Halliburton) estimates that each custodian averages 15–20 gigabytes of data, and collection can take two to ten days per custodian. The data must then be processed to be rendered searchable by the review tool being used, a process that can overwhelm the computer’s capacity and require that the data be processed by batch, as opposed to all at once. [2]

Halliburton represented to the court that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on eDiscovery for only a few dozen remotely located custodians. The need to force-collect the remote custodians’ entire set of data and then sort it out through the expensive eDiscovery processing phase instead of culling, filtering and searching the data at the point of collection drove up the costs.

Despite the burdens associated with the electronic discovery of distributed data across the four corners of the earth, such data is considered accessible under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and thus must be preserved and collected if relevant to a legal matter. However, the good news is that the preservation and collection efforts can and should be targeted to only potentially relevant information limited to only custodians and sources with a demonstrated potential connection to the litigation matter in question.

This is important as the biggest expense associated with eDiscovery is the cost of overly inclusive preservation and collection. Properly targeted preservation initiatives are permitted by the courts and can be enabled by adroit software that is able to quickly and effectively access and search these data sources throughout the enterprise. The value of targeted preservation is recognized in the Committee Notes to the FRCP amendments, which urge the parties to reach agreement on the preservation of data and the key words, date ranges and other metadata to identify responsive materials. [3]  And In re Genetically Modified Rice Litigation, the court noted that “[p]reservation efforts can become unduly burdensome and unreasonably costly unless those efforts are targeted to those documents reasonably likely to be relevant or lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.” [4]

However, such targeted collection and ECA in place is not feasible in the decentralized global enterprise with current eDiscovery and information management tools. What is needed to address these challenges for the de-centralized enterprise is a field-deployable search and eDiscovery solution that operates in distributed and virtualized environments on-demand within these distributed global locations where the data resides. In order to meet such a challenge, the eDiscovery and search solution must immediately and rapidly install, execute and efficiently operate in a localized virtualized environment, including public or private cloud deployments, where the site data is located, without rigid hardware requirements or on-site physical access.

This is impossible if the solution is fused to hardware appliances or otherwise requires a complex on-site installation process. After installation, the solution must be able to index the documents and other data locally and serve up those documents for remote but secure access, search and review through a web browser. As the “heavy lifting” (indexing, search, and document filtering) is all performed locally, this solution can effectively operate in some of the harshest local environments with limited network bandwidth. The data is not only collected and culled within the local area network, but is also served up for full early case assessment and first pass review on site, so that only a much smaller data set of potentially relevant data is ultimately transmitted to a central location.

This ground breaking capability is what X1 Rapid Discovery provides. Its ability to uniquely deploy and operate in the IaaS cloud also means that the solution can install anywhere within the wide-area network, remotely and on-demand. This enables globally decentralized enterprises to finally address their overseas data in an efficient, expedient defensible and highly cost effective manner.

If you have any thoughts or experiences with the unique eDiscovery challenges of the de-centralized global enterprise, feel free to email me. I welcome the collaboration.

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[1] 272 F.R.D. 235 (2011)

[2] Id at 240.

[3] Citing the Manual for Complex Litigation (MCL) (4th) §40.25 (2)):

[4] 2007 WL 1655757 (June 5, 2007 E.D.Mo.)

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Authenticating Internet Web Pages as Evidence: a New Approach

By John Patzakis and Brent Botta

In recent posts, we have addressed the issue of evidentiary authentication of social media data. (See previous entries here and here). General Internet site data available through standard web browsing, instead of social media data provided by APIs or user credentials, presents slightly different but just as compelling challenges.

The Internet provides torrential amounts of evidence potentially relevant to litigation matters, with courts routinely facing proffers of data preserved from various websites. This evidence must be authenticated in all cases, and the authentication standard is no different for website data or chat room evidence than for any other. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 901(a), “The requirement of authentication … is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” United States v. Simpson, 152 F.3d 1241, 1249 (10th Cir. 1998).

Ideally, a proponent of the evidence can rely on uncontroverted direct testimony from the creator of the web page in question. In many cases, however, that option is not available. In such situations, the testimony of the viewer/collector of the Internet evidence “in combination with circumstantial indicia of authenticity (such as the dates and web addresses), would support a finding” that the website documents are what the proponent asserts. Perfect 10, Inc. v. Cybernet Ventures, Inc. (C.D.Cal.2002) 213 F.Supp.2d 1146, 1154. (emphasis added) (See also, Lorraine v. Markel American Insurance Company, 241 F.R.D. 534, 546 (D.Md. May 4, 2007) (citing Perfect 10, and referencing MD5 hash values as an additional element of potential “circumstantial indicia” for authentication of electronic evidence).

One of the many benefits of X1 Social Discovery is its ability to preserve and display all the available “circumstantial indicia” – to borrow the Perfect 10 court’s term — to the user in order to present the best case possible for the authenticity of Internet-based evidence collected with the software. This includes collecting all available metadata and generating a MD5 checksum or “hash value” of the preserved data.

But html web pages pose unique authentication challenges and merely generating an MD5 checksum of the entire web page, or just the web page source file, provides limited value because web pages are constantly changing due to their very fluid and dynamic nature. In fact, a web page collected from the Internet in immediate succession would very likely calculate two different MD5 checksums. This is because web pages typically feature links to many external items that are dynamically loaded upon each page view. These external links take the form of cascading style sheets (CSS), graphical images, JavaScripts and other supporting files. This linked content can be stored on another server in the same domain, but is often located somewhere else on the Internet.

When the Web browser loads a web page, it consolidates all these items into one viewable page for the user. Since the Web page source file contains only the links to the files to be loaded, the MD5 checksum of the source file can remain unchanged even if the content of the linked files become completely different.  Therefore, the content of the linked items must be considered in the authenticity of the Web page. X1 Social Discovery addresses these challenges by first generating an MD5 checksum log representing each item that constitutes the Web page, including the main Web page’s source. Then an MD5 representing the content of all the items contained within the web page is generated and preserved.

To further complicate Web collections, entire sections of a Web page are often not visible to the viewer. These hidden areas serve various purposes, including metatagging for Internet search engine optimization. The servers that host Websites can either store static Web pages or dynamically created pages that usually change each time a user visits the Website, even though the actual content may appear unchanged.

In order to address this additional challenge, X1 Social Discovery utilizes two different MD5 fields for each item that makes a Web page.  The first is the acquisition hash that is from the actual collected information.  The second is the content hash.  The content hash is based on the actual “BODY” of a Web page and ignores the hidden metadata.  By taking this approach, the content hash will show if the user viewable content has actually changed, not just a hidden metadata tag provided by the server. To illustrate, below is a screenshot from the metadata view of X1 Social Discovery for website capture evidence, reflecting the generation of MD5 checksums for individual objects on a single webpage:

The time stamp of the capture and url of the web page is also documented in the case. By generating hash values of all individual objects within the web page, the examiner is better able to pinpoint any changes that may have occurred in subsequent captures. Additionally, if there is specific item appearing on the web page, such as an incriminating image, then is it is important to have an individual MD5 checksum of that key piece of evidence. Finally, any document file found on a captured web page, such as a pdf, Powerpoint, or Word document, will also be individually collected by X1 Social Discovery with corresponding acquisition and content hash values generated.

We believe this approach to authentication of website evidence is unique in its detail and presents a new standard. This authentication process supports the equally innovative automated and integrated web collection capabilities of X1 Social Discovery, which is the only solution of its kind to collect website evidence both through a one-off capture or full crawling, including on a scheduled basis, and have that information instantly reviewable in native file format through a federated search that includes multiple pieces of social media and website evidence in a single case. In all, X1 Social Discovery is a powerful solution to effectively collect from social media and general websites across the web for both relevant content and all available “circumstantial indicia.”

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Filed under Authentication, Best Practices, Preservation & Collection