UCL Department of Security and Crime Science


Digital forensics and social media evidence: how can we improve their interpretation in court?

4 September 2019

A new research project will explore the use of ‘digital forensics’ in criminal cases, focusing on social media and messaging communications between suspects, victims and witnesses of crimes.

Photo of Lady Justice on top of the Old Bailey

The Dawes Trust is funding a collaborative research group, comprising academics from the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, Birkbeck’s Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR), Birkbeck’s Institute for Data Analytics, and Perpetuity Research, a consultancy specialising in security, risk and crime prevention. The research project aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities associated with ‘digital forensics’, by looking at evidence derived from posts on social media platforms and communications on messaging applications, and analysing how such evidence is used in the investigation and prosecution of offline, interpersonal offences. 

Researchers will address complex legal and ethical questions about the use of digital forensics and social media evidence, including:
•    What are the technical processes by which social media and messaging content are obtained and preserved for criminal investigations? 
•    How adequate is the existing legal, procedural and regulatory framework governing access, seizure, admissibility and presentation of social media evidence? 
•    What are the key challenges associated with review, analysis and disclosure of digital communications – including determination of ‘all reasonable lines of inquiry’ where there is a vast quantity of material? 
•    What are the implications of the use of social media evidence for the privacy of suspects, victims and witnesses? 
•    How can social media evidence best be presented in court? 

For more information, visit the ICPR website.