Social media content can be vital during a family law matter
By Jennifer Brown, AdvocateDaily.com Senior Editor
In the middle of a heated domestic dispute people often say things over social media and in text messages that they think can be easily deleted, but it’s rarely gone for good, says Tyler Hatch, founder and CEO of DFI Forensics Inc.
“Conversations on social media, texts, email or Facebook messenger can become important during a family law matter, and you don’t want to walk into court with just screen captures — you want digital-verified evidence presented by a qualified expert,” Hatch tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Understanding how digital communication can be tracked and preserved is also important when couples end their relationships.
“Some people tend to install spyware programs and feel the need to track their ex’s conversations and locations,” says Hatch, a former litigation lawyer whose company is based in Langley, B.C.
Hatch says DFI Forensics, which has satellite offices in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto, is often hired by clients to verify that a device is safe and free from spyware.
“We are engaged in a number of files to just sweep devices for the presence of those kinds of software programs because they can pick up and transmit secure communications between a client and lawyer. Even the lawyers are saying there are things showing up in court affidavits that the other party should not have known about.”
Hatch says DFI Forensics serves to educate clients on what’s possible in terms of tracking a person’s digital footprint and it can determine fairly quickly if there is monitoring software on a digital device.
“We can often rule out the presence of that kind of software in a 30-second conversation. With the high-level spyware apps, you need physical access to the device and to know someone’s password to open it, or you can’t change the settings to install the software. If you’re separated and not living together, and you’ve changed your passcodes and believe there is no way they could gain access, maybe there is a better explanation for why they have that private information, and you shouldn’t spend money to analyze your phone.”
Digital evidence is often relevant in determining if there are assets that one party is trying to conceal from another.
“For example, someone may have records of where they keep their money, but it’s only located on their computer — perhaps it’s a spreadsheet that is disguised to look like an image file — those kinds of things get tricky and come up from time to time in the work that we do,” says Hatch. “People have to realize that it’s a possibility those files can be accessed.”
While DFI Forensics often works directly with family law lawyers, in some cases, clients go to Hatch or are referred by their lawyer when dealing with a problematic separation and feel threatened.
“They want to feel their privacy is protected,” he says.