The Pitfalls of In-House Social Media Investigations

Many law firms rely on in-house staff to conduct online investigations and social media collection. These people typically have other duties at the firm and are not specialists in finding information online. Even when conducted properly and ethically, in-house digital evidence searches present significant challenges that few law firms have the preparation to address.

Misidentification and Misinformation

Online discovery is prone to misidentification or misinformation. For example, when searching for individuals with common names – it is far too easy to identify the wrong person. And even if you do identify the right person, an online search may provide outdated information or completely wrong results. In a worst-case scenario, online searches may not yield any useful information at all. This is where not having a highly trained team to execute online discovery can prove costly. Your firm risks having the case dismissed or a lawsuit by the misidentified individual.

Under no circumstances should employees engage in the highly unethical tactic of “friending” or “connecting”

Inadvertent Interaction or Engagement

Many in-house ediscovery searches include social media evidence collection. While social media is a legitimate source for discovery, significant risks are involved. First, individuals should refrain from interacting with others while engaged in a social media discovery process. They should not comment on posts or message people. Under no circumstances should employees engage in the highly unethical tactic of “friending” or “connecting” with a social media search target as part of an online discovery process.

Many social media platforms require users to create profiles in order to obtain full access. Those same social media platforms often make users include their real names in their profiles. But someone conducting social media discovery who logs to a social media platform under his or her real name seriously compromises the case at hand and may even expose the firm to adverse legal action.

Lack of Capacity and Expertise

Unethical practices or erroneous results are not the only hazards associated with relying on an in-house ediscovery strategy. While assigning the early stages of finding and preserving important data to digital-savvy staff may be viable, this is not the case with the latter stages of ediscovery. Collecting, processing and reviewing data requires custom hardware and software capable of detecting duplicates, extracting metadata and embedded files – and converting everything into a single, accessible format. Unfortunately, it is very expensive to purchase these specialized digital forensics tools – not to mention hire and retain the specialized staff required to use them properly.

Quite simply, “saving” money by conducting in-house ediscovery is a false economy. Instead, law firms should prohibit this unwise practice of conducting online discovery searches and outsource this critical task to experts who specialize in open-source intelligence. These transactional expenses can be passed through ultimately reducing cost for the end client while improving the quality of data available to the law firm.

SMI Aware has proprietary technology capable of executing sophisticated online forensics to handle high-volume discovery and analysis. Our independent in-house Analysts use their expertise and our proprietary software to perform thorough data collection and analysis to provide consistent, accurate results. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with your ediscovery.

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