Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hi-Tech Research Tools for Facts

When I was in law school I generally didn’t think of facts beyond whatever was included in the fact pattern for an exam. This isn’t the way things work in the real world. Litigants and their attorneys often employ investigators, interns, and newer associates look for facts in the real world. When I was an intern for attorneys, my tasks often included looking for as much information as I could find about witnesses using social media. I recently attended the ABA Techshow and found several companies offering hi-tech tools that can gather information from social media sites.

Tomoko

Tomoko is an app which includes a client, enhanced searching for Facebook, and other eDiscovery tools. I viewed a demonstration of the app given by its creator Karhrman Ziegenbein and it was quite impressive. First, he showed me a search of a person’s Facebook profile using the regular Facebook search tools that anyone can access (the same sort of search I was able to perform as an intern); this yielded three groups the person is known to be a member of. Then, using Tomoko, we performed the same search which yielded dozens of results. The app also allows the user to save a copy of a website, create a video of whatever is being presented on the screen, and create authentication data sufficient to satisfy evidence standards. In addition to many other real world uses this tool has been used to prosecute human traffickers conducting online auctions via the darknet.

Vijilent

Vijilent is an app that can be used to create a profile of an individual’s web presence. Vijilent has a demo version which anyone can use to create a snapshot of an individual and includes as much information as can be gleaned publicly from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It also searches public records. This data is presented in a report that includes photos, social media links, personality analysis, and analysis of sentiment towards the individual. The paid version includes ongoing social media tracking, authentication tools, and cloud storage of this data.

TrialDrone

TrialDrone is another social media analysis product. TrialDrone does many of the same functions as the other products discussed here but also uses social media to help digitally reconstruct an event. This can help litigators to find potential witnesses and evidence before it disappears. TrialDrone can also be used to track individuals—for instance tracking the social media output of an individual. Among other uses, this tool has been used to recreate the events related to the Boston Marathon Bombing.

All of these products can help a litigator to discover facts about individuals and events that before the widespread use of social media would have been impossible.


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