The Internet is constantly changing, and many web pages are often changed or even completely removed. If you are a legal professional capturing online evidence, the changing nature of the online world is something you constantly need to have in mind, in order not to be left without the evidence that may be important for solving your case.
First of all, once you find the web page which contains the information you may use as evidence, make sure to capture screenshots of the webpage’s content the moment you access it. This way you will capture the layout of the page and all the content contained in it at the moment of access. Secondly, you need to save the screenshots you have made in a standardized format. The most commonly used format is PDF, because it cannot be altered and changed in any way after the document has been created, which gives additional strength and relevance to the evidence you have collected from the website. Then, as it is important to capture the content of the online material you have collected, it is equally important to save the metadata of the files you have created. Saving metadata includes recording the time of capturing screenshots, complete URL of the pages you used and the source codes.
Chronological documentation of the material is also important when capturing online evidence. This is important for two main reasons. First, chronological order makes it easier for all the legal experts involved in the case to follow the course of events. Secondly, if the collected data is ordered chronologically, it makes it possible to draw correct conclusions about the case, which is especially important when planning the next step and when drawing conclusions and making decisions.
When capturing online evidence, it is crucial to provide a sound chain of custody. This means that you should pay attention to capturing and saving all the details about the evidence you collect from the Internet, from the beginning of the process to its end. Since digital documents are altered and manipulated more easily than the paper ones, it is very important to provide the solid evidence that you have not altered or manipulated the digital material in any way. This helps you in proving your case and makes the evidence you have collected more solid, more relevant and more valuable.
One of the good solutions for capturing online evidence is Page Vault, which is easy to use and it can be very useful for legal experts who are not particularly tech-savvy. It is a browser created especially for the purpose of collecting online data, and it records the accessed web page as is, after which the record of the page is sent to a secure online vault. The captured pages are saved and stored as PDF files, and they also contain the exact time and date of the access, the page’s URL, the IP address and other key metadata.
Last, but not least, when you capture the online evidence, it is advisable to print them together with all the data related to them. While PDF files with the collected evidence can be safely stored on the computer or online, having a paper version as a backup always provides additional safety and a guarantee that the data will not be lost.