Facebook Download Your Information Function Omits Significant Amounts of Evidence

By John Patzakis and Brent Botta

Facebook provides a “Download Your Information” (“DYI”) function to allow users to download to their computer data they have posted to their own accounts. The output is in the form of a compressed ZIP file.  But is DYI useful or defensible for eDiscovery?

In making that assessment it is important to understand that the following key information is not included in Facebook’s DYI:

  1. The only content that is collected using DYI is what the user posts or comments. Comments to user’s post, as well as posts and comments the user responds to are excluded. As such, the collected portion of the conversation is one-sided with no context available to understand the conversation.
  2. The one-sided posts and comments that are collected are not structured by conversation – they are arranged by date of each individual post or comment. As such, DYI intermingles posts and comments from different conversations, thereby stripping out the context to each actual conversation.
  3. Facebook DYI omits Most Metadata Fields. Facebook contains over 20 unique metadata fields, all of which can be very important as substantive evidence or as information that helps establish an evidentiary foundation, which is particularly important for social media evidence. 

In contrast, X1 Social Discovery (“X1SD”), the leading software used by several hundred law firms, government regulatory agencies and litigation support consultants world-wide for the preservation, analysis and authentication of social media and other internet-based evidence. X1SD aggregates comprehensive social media content and web-based data into a single user interface, while preserving critical metadata, all inline comments, and other user interactions not possible through image capture “screenshot,” simple computer screen printouts or the Facebook Download Your Information (“DYI”) functionality.

One of the many benefits of X1SD is the comprehensive nature in which it collects and displays Facebook ESI. With X1SD, you can collect, preserve and review what a custodian posted, received and responded to. You can also see all the comments from other users in response to a post made by a custodian. Another of the key advantages of X1SD is its ability to preserve the parent child relationship within comments and posts which maintains the critical context and meaning to the content. This preservation is kept intact through the export process. This is opposed to the DYI method that breaks apart comments and posts and lists the Facebook ESI in a manner that prohibits the ability to associate the comments and posts with one another.

For instance, below is a screenshot of a DYI export of a comment to a post by the user illustrating its very limited context and exclusion of all other comments made by others in the conversation and other key information, such as metadata. The DYI export does not even provide the original post to which the user’s comment is made.

In contrast to Facebook DYI, an X1SD collection will include the entire conversation, associated images, and metadata associated with the post. A hash value of each item is generated at the time of collection to better facilitate evidentiary authentication.  Furthermore, the output can be delivered in a load file that is of the exact same format as the timeline collections to ensure ease of uploading for the downstream review platforms. Below is a screenshot of an X1SD export with the same comment but with a much fuller context, including the actual original post being commented on, the full conversation thread, and other important additional potential evidence:

The Sedona Conference noted these limitations with Facebook DYI, including its omission of key metadata and other evidence in its recent publication  The Sedona Conference, Primer on Social Media, Second Edition, 20 Sedona Conf. J. 1 (2019)(at pp 47-48). In the same section, the Sedona Conference recommends X1 Social Discovery, stating: “One of the popular social media discovery collection tools is X1 Social Discovery, which has API collection tools for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Tumblr, along with the capability to collect webpages and email from other providers.” (at pg. 49).

To test this for yourself, you can request a free trial of X1 Social Discovery here.

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