The Value of Native Files in OSINT

Without that metadata or supporting circumstantial evidence, the court may disallow your social media evidence, and many judges and magistrates reject screenshots as online evidence

In the digital age, we are all used to taking screenshots. We may take them on our phone to help us remember something, or so we can send a funny meme to a friend. We may screenshot a confirmation page or conversation to support our memory of the circumstances. But screenshots are not enough when gathering social media evidence for a legal case. Screenshots do not contain the supporting metadata and cannot be properly authenticated. Without that metadata or supporting circumstantial evidence, the court may disallow your social media evidence, and many judges and magistrates reject screenshots as online evidence. In all cases involving social media or online evidence, gathering it in native file format is essential.

What is native file format?

The native file is the true document or file in the original format in which the source application created it. Native files typically come with an accompanying load file, which contains all the essential data about that file, including where it originated and all associated metadata. This information is critical to authenticate the data and ensure that all electronically stored information associated with the file is preserved. Native files are considered the original document, file, or post, making it easier to be validated as admissible evidence.

Why is native file preservation important?

A screenshot does not accurately represent the type of interactive conversations that happen on social media. You need the information in the native file to capture the complete picture of what the evidence shows and authenticate the data. A native file includes all the raw data associated with a post or file in a way that can be extracted and used as evidence in a case.

Post-level data collection is essential when preserving social media evidence to ensure that evidentiary authentication requirements are met. Preserving social media and online evidence in native format ensures that tracked changes, author and date information, comments, and interactive content are tracked, along with details on when it was created and identification of the author.

When it comes to the admissibility of online and social media evidence, the key is to ensure you are accessing and preserving the information in a permissible manner. Capturing data in its native file format helps ensure that your data is permissible and contains all relevant information to support your case. Without it, you run the risk of having your evidence rejected.

Don’t let incorrectly gathered information hurt your case. Screenshots are not sufficient. Work with a trusted provider who understands how to collect and preserve social media and online evidence correctly in a permissible way. Our team of experts understands how to collect evidence in native file format and create a chain of custody that ensures the online evidence you need is gathered in a compliant manner that is admissible in court. Contact us today to learn how SMI Aware can help your organization locate, investigate, and preserve critical online evidence in native file format.

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