The DOJ guidelines also address issues relating to the use of computerized information as evidence. The guidelines note that “this area may become a new battleground for technical experts.” They recognize the unique problems of electronic evidence: “it can be created, altered, stored, copied, and moved with unprecedented ease, which creates both problems and opportunities for advocates.” The guidelines discuss scenarios where digital photographs can be easily altered without a trace and the potential use of digital signatures to create electronic seals. They also raise questions about using computer-generated evidence, such as the results of a search failing to locate an electronic tax return in a computer system. An evaluation of the technical processes used will be necessary: “proponents must be prepared to show that the process is reliable.”
The DOJ guidelines recommend that experts be used in all computer seizures and searches — “when in doubt, rely on experts.” They provide a list of experts from within government agencies, such as the Electronic Crimes Special Agent program in the Secret Service (with 12 agents at the time of the writing of the guidelines), the Computer Analysis and Response Team of the FBI, and the seized recovery specialists (SERC) in the IRS. The guidelines reveal that “many companies such as IBM and Data General employ some experts solely to assist various law enforcement agencies on search warrants.” Other potential experts include local universities and the victims of crimes themselves, although the guidelines caution that there may be potential bias problems when victims act as experts.
Justice.Gov (2018). Searching and Seizing Computers and Obtaining Electronic Evidence in Criminal Investigations. Retrieved on Jan 21, 2018