With 2.78 billion active social media users worldwide posting 31.25 million Facebook messages, 347k tweets on Twitter and 48K photos posted on Instagram every minute, social media is a rapidly becoming a primary source for digital evidence. And savvy investigative teams are using social media to solve crimes.

What’s Trending?

The 2020 Industry Trends Survey conducted by Cellebrite points to the growing value of social media as a source for investigators to tap:

  • 85% of investigators frequently review social media in typical investigations.
  • 52% of all cases involve cloud data, which includes social media.

One of the interesting results of the popularity of social media, especially with Millennials, has been that law enforcement is able to access a detailed and robust digital footprint when doing their investigations.

As the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) points out in their Cloud-Based Data Collection & Analysis Best Practices Guide, the Cloud is an evidence-rich resource that can. supply “account information, message content, location data, recently connected devices, media, connected apps, tokens, and activity such as likes, conversations, and messages.”

When entered into a digital intelligence platform where all of the data can be analyzed and disparate pieces of evidence gathered using AI technologies—friends, photos, likes, followers, comments, and patterns gleaned from social media can open up critical leads to suspects and witnesses in investigations that become stalled.

Accessing data from social media, however, must be done with the proper legal authorizations.

Check Out This Webinar

Cellebrite’s recorded webinar – Solve your case faster with evidence from the social media public domain – can help investigators understand the differences between public and private social media data and what this means for digital investigations. Public-domain social media is data that the user shares publicly on the Internet, while private social media is information that the user limits access to approved family members or friends.

Presenters Buddy Tidwell, Vice President of Global Training, Cellebrite and Richard J. Colangelo, Jr., Chief State’s Attorney in the Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk, CT bring years of investigation and prosecution experience to this seminar, which is divided into four sections:

  1. Impact of public social media data on investigations.
  2. Best practices and considerations for collecting, leveraging and admitting social media evidence in relation to the legal world.
  3. Preparing your team with the right tools and skill.
  4. Q&A.

Together Tidwell and Colangelo will demonstrate how private, cloud-based data represents a virtual goldmine of potential evidence for digital forensic investigators. When overlaid with mobile device data, cloud data sources often present critical connections investigators need to solve crimes.

This webinar is excellent for visual learners as we will use Cellebrite UFED Cloud to gather social data and visually display insights for easy analysis.

Using Cellebrite UFED Cloud

Cellebrite UFED Cloud makes a clear distinction between publicly available data that you can harvest versus privately available data that you might need an additional search warrant or legal authorization to gain access to.

Mining for digital intelligence in a forensically sound manner is built into the Cellebrite UFED Cloud tool, which actually hashes files when you collect from the public domain or the private domain. This is a scientifically acceptable method of validating evidence to show that the files have not been altered or tampered with.

When you gather data across a variety of disparate social platforms, particularly for cases in the child exploitation realm or missing-children cases, time is a factor in being able to solve a case quickly to save a victim.

Find out how the Cellebrite UFED Cloud can assist you in finding and collecting social media data from multiple sites and organizing it into easy-to-read visualizations for the analysis of large datasets.

You will be able to examine normalized data collected from multiple social media sites in one view, then share and report relevant intelligence and evidence with your team, other agencies, and jurisdictions.

Social Media Contains Critical Public Domain Data

This section of the webinar discusses the types of data investigators can find on social media and the kinds of evidence that they can harvest, such as location information. (When a person builds a profile on a social media site, they often offer information about themselves, which can help investigators to later identify who the owner of an account is, and who is responsible for posting.)

Buddy will discuss the following areas of data that can be accessed:

  • Person profile: bio, education, likes, and interests.
  • Social Communication: – Posts, Tweets, Likes, Comments, and Grams.
  • Files: Images and Videos.

Learn about one of the most important pieces of information – connection data that links people together. Looking into who someone is connected to, can reveal the answers as to why or how they are connected. It’s a way of finding out if there is any additional evidence out there or witnesses that know anything about the case.

Real-Life Examples of Social Media Evidence That Solved Cases

The webinar also includes real case studies that illustrate the value of mining social media data and the impact it had on resolving four cases:

  1. Identify additional witnesses in a hit and run– A suspect had publicly posted pictures of himself prior to the incident on Facebook and Instagram which assisted investigators to find additional witnesses who were in the suspect’s vehicle during the crime.

  2. Establish probable cause in a drug overdose investigation – One of the things almost every jurisdiction is dealing with now is the opioid epidemic and subsequent cases of overdosing. An overdose victim’s social post led to identifying additional evidence and a conviction.

  3. Cross-examination in a sexual assault case – The victim’s publicly posted information was used by the defense team for cross-examination.

  4. A female victim of a robbery at a convenience store – A social post of stolen items led to resolution of the case.

Learn about the new practices of digital due diligence, where it is important to check the social media accounts of suspects and victims to find low-hanging fruit that is easily harvested for initial investigations.

Understand the most popular use of social media for intelligence gathering, which is to strengthen cases related to gangs, robbery, drugs, and weapons, as criminals often post the proceedings or evidence of their crimes and in some cases display the gun used in a shooting.

Obtaining Social Media Public Domain Data

There are unique considerations for obtaining social media data, as well as, three main challenges involving legal access, forensically sound investigative processes, and getting the social media evidence admitted in court. Here are some of the topics we will cover.

Best practices: In this section of the webinar, we will explain the forensic implications concerning adhering to forensic best practices, altering or modifying evidence, preserving original evidence, and working on “live” social data.

Storage concerns: Richard will answer the most common question of how to deal with the challenge of social media information that is not stored in the local jurisdiction but may be somewhere else in the country or across the globe. Beyond storage concerns, the other main obstacle that we address is the disparate and growing volumes of data across multiple social media platforms, which needs to be composited and normalized so prosecutors can make sense of it.

Reporting: We will also explain how you can present your evidence in an easily readable and digestible report to the prosecutor as often times it’s the forensics investigators job to make things that are relatively complex sound fairly simple.

Tools: A large component of preparing your investigative team to successfully gather evidence is equipping them with the right tools and making sure that they have the right training on how to operate that tool in a repeatable and predictable way.

Training: Buddy will discuss how important it is for you and your team to get your training from someone who understands your mission, the core set of problems in an investigation, and who has “been there and done that”.

To learn more about how Cellebrite UFED Cloud can help your team solve more cases faster, click here.

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