May I Use Your Pocket Com­puter?

Forbes Middle East - - CONTENTS - BY Nick Athanasi

For a time-trav­eler from the be­gin­ning of the mil­len­nium, “phone” would prob­a­bly not be the first term that would come to their mind when look­ing at the de­vices in the hands of most peo­ple to­day.

Con­sid­er­ing the pur­pose of a phone, call­ing smart­phones “phones” does them a big dis­ser­vice, as their in­ven­tion was such a huge leap for­ward in terms of build­ing a con­nected world. In the present day, many peo­ple would strug­gle to think of life with­out these mo­bile de­vices due to the in­stant con­nec­tiv­ity to vir­tu­ally every­thing at their fin­ger­tips.

As mo­bile de­vices have be­come insep­a­ra­ble from our per­sonal and busi­ness lives, the data they hold is in­creas­ingly rich and gran­u­lar enough to de­velop pro­files of in­ti­mate de­tail on the users, re­gard­less of whether most users re­al­ize this or not. In fact, due to the in­ti­mate na­ture of these de­vices, they could har­bor much more valu­able in­for­ma­tion than users’ PCs.

By not la­belling these de­vices “com­put­ers”, in­ves­ti­ga­tions and le­gal sec­tors have ben­e­fited like no other. How­ever, these rich sources of in­for­ma­tion should be han­dled ex­pertly and or­ga­ni­za­tions should be aware of the var­i­ous con­sid­er­a­tions and chal­lenges that are as­so­ci­ated with in­cor­po­rat­ing data from these de­vices in in­ves­ti­ga­tions or dis­putes.

Most in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­quire a multi-di­men­sional per­spec­tive as op­posed to a lin­ear re­view of doc­u­ments, which is more likely to be the case in a con­tract dis­pute for in­stance. Be­ing able to in­ter­ro­gate as many av­enues of in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble in­creases the like­li­hood of suc­cess in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. As much as busi­ness emails can play a vi­tal role in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, mo­bile de­vices could of­fer ad­di­tional pieces of a puz­zle, en­abling the build­ing of a more unabridged story. For ex­am­ple, af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing an email in­di­cat­ing a con­ver­sa­tion be­ing taken to a dif­fer­ent medium, us­ing data avail­able on a mo­bile de­vice, in­ves­ti­ga­tors could con­nect the dots by com­bin­ing call logs, text mes­sages, vis­ited lo­ca­tions, browsed web­sites, wire­less net­works con­nected and so on.

With re­gards to the con­sid­er­a­tions for us­ing mo­bile de­vices in in­ves­ti­ga­tions or dis­putes, one of the main as­pects is whether com­pa­nies have the le­gal right to ac­cess their em­ploy­ees’ de­vices. There are nu­mer­ous fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­tic ad­van­tages of Bring Your Own De­vice poli­cies, but they also come with var­i­ous chal­lenges. Or­ga­ni­za­tions should un­der­stand the as­so­ci­ated le­gal and tech­ni­cal im­pli­ca­tions of such poli­cies, as they will be­come cru­cial in a cri­sis.

Tech­ni­cal ac­cess to data on mo­bile de­vices is an­other key con­sid­er­a­tion—an is­sue that be­came ex­ceed­ingly ap­par­ent in the re­cent dis­pute be­tween Ap­ple and the FBI, in which the FBI re­quested Ap­ple’s as­sis­tance in ac­cess­ing a gun­man’s phone.

Even with com­plete ac­cess to in­di­vid­u­als’ mo­bile phones, the preser­va­tion, trans­porta­tion and ex­am­i­na­tion of these de­vices need to be han­dled with ex­treme cau­tion and by ex­perts. In fact, law en­force­ment agents are be­ing in­structed not to even look at the de­vices with fa­cial recog­ni­tion fea­tures to avoid in­ad­ver­tently lock­ing them, or worse, wip­ing the data off the de­vice en­tirely. In ad­di­tion, due to the con­nected na­ture of mo­bile de­vices, they pose a high risk of data spo­li­a­tion. It is pos­si­ble to re­motely wipe the data off the de­vice or al­ter the data on the de­vices, which could ren­der the en­tire ev­i­dence in­ad­mis­si­ble in court.

Fur­ther to the chal­lenges in col­lect­ing data from mo­bile de­vices, given the vol­ume and va­ri­ety of third-party ap­pli­ca­tions and the speed at which soft­ware is up­dated on mo­bile de­vices, the abil­ity to an­a­lyze this data is a con­stant race for the elec­tronic dis­cov­ery in­dus­try, which re­quires state-of-the-art tools and highly-skilled pro­fes­sion­als.

The prac­ti­cal­ity of­fered by smart­phones has trans­formed our per­sonal and busi­ness lives in ways that are in­dis­pens­able to us, and that were unimag­in­able not so long ago. As a re­sult, mo­bile de­vices are in­valu­able av­enues of in­for­ma­tion that were not his­tor­i­cally part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ ar­se­nal.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions should be aware of the chal­lenges and con­sid­er­a­tions as­so­ci­ated with har­vest­ing these rich sources of in­for­ma­tion, which re­quires com­pre­hen­sive le­gal ad­vice and tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ists equipped with the right skillset and a state-of-the-art tool­kit.

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