How to Preserve Web Evidence

While there are many ways to preserve web evidence, not all of these methods will meet your needs. This is especially true if you need to preserve internet evidence for use in court or if you need to be able to analyze the websites after they are captured. This blog will cover how to preserve web evidence for lawyers, private investigators, analysts and other researchers.

The Quick and Dirty Ways


Screen-capturing tools are the most common way people try to preserve websites. These tools can be extremely useful and easy-to-use, and they are often free or low-cost. However, they have some downsides. First of all, if you need to submit evidence in court, screenshots are not the way to go. Screenshots can be altered and they do not collect metadata. It is not advisable to use these in court, especially if you capture them yourself.

In addition to the legal downsides, there are some major functional problems with screenshots that make them unappealing for analysts. The largest functional problem with most screen-capturing tools is that they are unable to capture long pages. This means that if you are trying to capture an extremely long Facebook page, for example, you will have to capture the page in many separate sections. (Tip: To look at a Facebook timeline by year or month, use the following: or

Depending on the tool you use, it can also result in strange formatting problems. Another problem with screenshotting is that it generally results in a .jpg or .png file that cannot be searched and does not retain any of the hyperlinks.

Print Page

Printing the page from your browser is similar to screenshotting. It is quick and free, but not a good idea if you want to preserve social media evidence or other web evidence for use in court. This method also produces the lowest quality report of all methods discussed in this blog. Printing the page will often result in formatting problems, missing text or ads, and garbled content. As tempting as it is to just press ctrl-P, there are many better ways to capture a page.

These methods are good for people who:

  • Need an inexpensive way to get a copy of a webpage
  • Don’t need high quality page captures
  • Don’t need the evidence to be defensible
  • Don’t need to be able to search the documents after capture


Self-Service Software Tools

One of the better options is to use a tool specifically created for saving data to be used as evidence, not just a screenshot of a webpage. There are several tools that allow you to download their software, capture the webpage yourself, then download the files from their website.

Some of these tools maintain digital chain of custody and are great for people who don’t want to outsource this work, but still want their data to be admissible in court. Some of these tools allow you to pull Facebook and Twitter posts through API, and offer good interfaces for examining social media data. One thing to note is that the API often only captures the initial post instead of all of the comments. If you want full control of collection and have the resources to manage this yourself, then these software tools are for you.

This method is good for people who:

  • Need professional, defensible preservation of evidence
  • Have the time and resources to run the software themselves

The Full Service Way


If you are looking for an option that will fully preserve social media profiles and web evidence without taking a lot of your time, you may be interested in SMI’s Export service. With Exports, you send SMI a url, and we will send you back a fully hyperlinked, text-searchable PDF that captures the entire social media profile or webpage.

Like the self-service tools, SMI saves the original website data and preserves chain of custody of the electronic files.

The key difference between SMI Exports and self-service tools is that SMI takes out all of the tedious, time-consuming work that goes into preserving web evidence. If you’ve ever tried to capture a long Facebook page with expanded comments, you know how much time it can take. It’s also just mind-numbingly boring. (Note: The largest Facebook profile we’ve ever Exported was 2,443 pages long – imagine trying to screenshot that).

The SMI Export product was specifically designed for lawyers, private investigators, insurance companies, and other customers who need professional captures of social media profiles and webpages. In addition to preserving the evidence, SMI also specializes in locating and identifying evidence on social media and other internet sources.

This method is good for people who:

  • Need professional, defensible preservation of evidence
  • Don’t want to use in-house resources on tedious collection
  • Want to be able to analyze data within the report

Legal researchers and librarians frequently tell us that screenshotting takes them hours. An SMI Export of any webpage or social media profile is $50. How much is your time worth to you? Click here to get a sample Facebook Export.

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