eDiscovery Daily Blog

Cellebrite 2019 Report on Industry Trends for Law Enforcement: eDiscovery Trends

As I’ve been saying for a while now and will be discussing with Tom O’Connor in our webcast on April 24, discovery isn’t just for litigation anymore.  Drivers for compliance and investigations are growing to the point that discovery activities are about as likely to support those needs as they for litigation.  And, for law enforcement, investigations are the primary discovery driver.  So, what are some of the trends they see with regard to the types and sources of evidence associated with these investigations?  A new report by Cellebrite, a leader in forensic collection for cellular phones and mobile devices, sheds light on those trends.

Cellebrite recently conducted an industry trends survey targeting Law Enforcement and reported the results in their 2019 Report on Industry Trends for Law Enforcement (link to download the free report available here, hat tip to Rob Robinson’s Complex Discovery site for the reference).  The survey focused on the impact of digital data in investigating and prosecuting criminal cases including:

  • What types of digital sources are being used in investigations.
  • Which digital sources and data are most frequently used and considered the most important.
  • The challenges to accessing digital data.
  • The impact to productivity and ability to resolve investigations.

Over 2,700 Law Enforcement personnel completed the survey with the majority of the respondents coming from investigators and examiners.  Five of the most important key findings from the survey were as follows:

  • Mobile phones are the most frequently used and most important digital source for investigations.
  • The variety of digital sources used in investigations in increasing and now includes sources such as wearables and smart home technology being used more frequently in investigations.
  • Two most common challenges to extracting data from mobile phones are locked phones and encrypted data.
  • Law enforcement agencies are averaging three-month backlogs on investigations.
  • Despite the backlogs and the variety of digital sources and the amount of digital data that typically need to be reviewed in an investigation, the vast majority of law enforcement agencies are reviewing this information manually instead of using analytics solutions.

Smartphones remain the primary source for digital evidence with 91% of respondents indicating that evidence sources from smartphones were an evidence source “very frequently” (81%) or “frequently” (10%).  Computers were a distant second at 52%, followed by CCTV (i.e., surveillance systems) and feature phones (those “lacking the functionality of smart phones”) at 45% each.  And, many of the top data types reviewed during an investigation are likely to be from mobile device sources, including Images from Digital Evidence (at 94% total “very frequent” and “frequent”), Text messages (93%), Videos from Digital Evidence (90%) and Location History from Digital Evidence (86%), among others.  The report contains many more stats, including percentage of cases involving data from cloud sources, time spent reviewing various sources of data, time spent on reporting and caseloads, among other things.

According to Cisco, monthly global mobile data traffic will be 77 exabytes by 2022, and annual traffic will reach almost one zettabyte (if you didn’t know already, a zettabyte is 1 trillion gigabytes).  And, the report notes that 85% of criminal investigations include some form of digital data, so establishing the relevancy of collecting digital data was not a focus of the survey.  You can click on the link above to download a copy of the report or view an insert of the report within Rob’s blog.

So, what do you think?  Does it surprise you that law enforcement investigations are so heavily focused on mobile devices?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.