Personal Cell Phone Forensics

Personal Cell Phone Forensics inlcudes social media, business and personal messages, photos, emails and GPS.

Leading computer forensics Expert Lee Neubecker, discusses the complexities of personal cell phone forensics with Debbie Reynolds from Debbie Reynolds Consulting. We both agree the litigation involving cell phones becomes personal and proves difficult to gain possession. Personal and business text messages, social media posts, photos, GPS records, emails, are all weaved together and become part of the discovery equation. eDiscovery in today’s era is incomplete without including data from smart phone including text messages, Skype, WhatsApp, Slack, Signal and other messaging platforms. Learn more about eDiscovery as it relates to personal cell phone messaging systems by watching Reynolds and Neubecker discuss the topic in today’s blog video interview.

The transcript of the interview follows:

Lee Neubecker: Hi, I’m here today again with Debbie Reynolds, and we’re going to talk about something interesting, which every piece of litigation now is getting into. We’re talking about cell phone forensics. What’s been your experience with litigation involving cell phones and discovery?

Debbie Reynolds: Well, whenever they’re cell phones involved eye-rolling begins because people take their cell phones very personally. As opposed to someone’s laptop, which maybe they don’t want to give up, they will fight tooth and nail not to give up their cell phones. And obviously people, they mix work with pleasure and they’re doing different things. They may not want you to see, even if it’s nothing criminal going on, people just feel very tied to their cell phone. The hardest thing is actually getting possession of it and letting them know that you’re not going to look through their juicy texts or their photographs, especially if it’s not an issue in the case.

Lee Neubecker: I know that whenever you need to get into text messages, it becomes a sensitive topic for people. But there are effective ways to get effective discovery without totally trampling over someone’s privacy in many issues involving contract disputes or other civil litigation, what’s important is to identify the relevant custodians. Let’s say we have your cell phone in the conversation with mine, we can then take that, we can create a single PDF document showing each conversation thread and then you could quickly go through it, if it’s your phone in which your attorney identify relevant, not relevant, and then only take the ones that are between the relevant parties and load that up into the review platform.

Debbie Reynolds: Right. And to one thing, one very effective thing that people are doing now, and that’s something that you do, Lee, is where someone, they don’t want the other side to see their whole cell phone so they’ll have a forensic company collect the phone and say, only give them X. That’s actually a very secure way. It gives people peace of mind knowing that they’re not giving everything over, that the forensic folks can actually do some of this pre-work before people actually start looking at things.

Lee Neubecker: Yeah. And like what I’ve done is, they’re not going to pay me to spend time looking at their photos, nor do I want to look at that stuff.

Debbie Reynolds: No. No one cares. I think that’s what people don’t understand. We’ve been working on cases for over 20 years and I really don’t care what’s on the phone or what you said or what videos on there. It really makes a little difference to us.

Lee Neubecker: What I try to do is I try to quickly create almost a summary index of okay, these are the conversation threads. Tell me which phone numbers are relevant, aren’t relevant, who are the relevant parties, and then we can just pull those specific threads out, put them up into the review platform.

Debbie Reynolds: Exactly.

Lee Neubecker: Now, sometimes there’s issues where photos are relevant specifically, if it’s important that you know the whereabouts or someone on a given date and time. Photos often can establish whether or not someone was really at home sick or out on vacation somewhere. There’s embedded GPS data that is recorded into most photos that are taken with smartphones.

Debbie Reynolds: Unless someone decides to strip it out. I think if you don’t do anything to it, it will collect that data. But there are ways to strip that information out. And also, people can turn off GPS tracking on their phone.

Lee Neubecker: Yeah. Well, thanks for being on the show again today.

Debbie Reynolds: Well, thank you for having me.

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