I do not know whether it is shrewd marketing on the part of AccessData or a coincidence, but the press announcement of their Mobile Phone Examiner Plus (MPE+) came to my attention on the same day as an article on Zeit Online dating from March 2011 with the title Betrayed by our own data.
The latter illustrates the enormous quantity of information which we give away merely by having our mobile phones turned on all the time – thousands of pieces of data which, when added together and, perhaps, aggregated with information from other sources, presents the complete story of our lives, much of it obtained legitimately and with our own consent.
The AccessData product provides the means by which lawyers may get into that information for the purposes of making or rebutting allegations in litigation and for similar purposes. This goes far beyond the implications in criminal proceedings or through the actions of security services. Many a civil case – to do with employer-employee relations, matrimonial disputes, IP theft and just simple cases of disagreement and conflicting evidence in straightforward contract, negligence or accident claims – may be resolved by examination of the mobile phone of a party or a witness.
The German Green politician Malte Spitz clocked up 35,831 rows of information in a spreadsheet about his mobile phone data between August 2009 and February 2010. If you add this to his non-phone data and externally available information, you have a more or less complete picture of his life. The witness who denies knowing someone or who asserts that he or she was or was not in a particular place at a particular time, does not stand a chance when evidence collected from his or her mobile phone shows otherwise.
That is the point of AccessData’s new product.
It is, no doubt, chilling to know that all this information is available. It is equally chilling, to my eye, that so many lawyers simply do not know that information of this kind is both available and fits within the definition of a discoverable / disclosable document by the definition of a document in most common law countries. But if that is bad enough in the context of civil litigation, how much worse is it when no one spots that this information may convict or acquit someone charged with a criminal offence?