Embracing the Cloud: How Third-Party Digital Evidence Can Make the Case

As technology advances, it becomes a larger part of “traditional” criminal investigations that previously had little nexus with technology. Law enforcement administrators should consider proactively encouraging their staff to develop an understanding for a new era of potential evidence that can ultimately include invaluable information for investigators—third-party electronically stored information (ESI). ESI from cloud data and mobile device applications, more commonly referred to as “apps,” can supply evidence that investigators can collect by establishing probable cause through the legal process.

The amount of ESI that people keep in the form of texts, emails, pictures, and documents can be staggering. The majority of U.S. residents, for example, no longer access the Internet primarily via a laptop or desktop computer anymore. A large segment of the world’s population has access to and uses mobile devices to connect with thousands of apps that interconnect third-party providers who may have ESI of evidentiary value in almost any investigation.