December 2012 Bar Bulletin
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December 2012 Bar Bulletin

GPS Data: Scratching the Discovery Itch

By Bill Roberts


Technology does wonderful things for us and it is accelerating. The original telephone technology ruled the communications roost for more than 100 years. In less than 30 years, cell phones have gone from just a vision to being superceded by smartphones.

In less than 20 years, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers have transitioned from bulky, classified military hardware to being a feature in many consumer items, from expensive cars to inexpensive cameras and, of course, handheld smartphones.

Today, built-in technology enables smartphones to send and receive text and multimedia messages and surf the web from available connections, in addition to placing and receiving phone calls. With the right applications or apps, a smartphone can do many more things, including providing the user with step-by-step navigational directions using GPS technology. For those who don't have a smartphone GPS app, there are inexpensive GPS devices.

All of these capabilities leave a trail that can be a bane or boon, depending on one's perspective. With few exceptions, the user can delete to their heart's content, but the information remains in memory until it is written over.

Let's take a look at what is available for electronic discovery.

Cell Phones

Cell phones are the oldest and simplest of the handheld devices, but may still yield useful information. They store a history of calls that have been placed, answered or missed.

In addition, they resemble computers in the sense that deleted text messages, drafts and contacts remain until overwritten - out of view of the user and thus available for discovery.

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