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Why Are You Using Screenshots as Webpage Evidence? (Guest Post)

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A question we often get from attorneys is how to effectively capture social media and webpage evidence for use in litigation and other legal matters. To get them into evidence, lawyers often resort to webpage and social media screenshots, but relying on screenshots may complicate admissibility and implicate the Best Evidence Rule.


We have good news: screenshots and authenticity problems may be a thing of the past thanks to our friends at Page Vault. They have a great product that makes capturing webpages and social media evidence a breeze. Page Vault provides software-as-a-service (SaaS) permitting legal professionals to quickly capture webpages for use in legal matters. In fact, you can say goodbye to screenshots altogether because capturing webpage evidence via Page Vault preserves source code, webpage name, URL, IP address, and other key metadata.


To tell us more, we invited Page Vault’s CFO and Head of Operations, Stephen Nazaran, to write a guest post and tell us a little more about his company and app. Stephen’s article follows.


Software to simplify webpage capture

I recently had a chance to chat with Chad Main, the CEO of Percipient, about the work that his company does in e-discovery and managed document review. We spoke about the difficulties faced in collecting website and social media content. A quick skim through Chad’s blog shows that this has become  a growing concern within e-discovery without a clear answer. With this growing problem in mind, Chad asked me to share the ways that Page Vault helps with webpage and social media discovery.


Page Vault allows attorneys and other legal professionals to quickly capture webpages for legal use. Users surf the web using Page Vault’s proprietary cloud-based browser; this browser protects the integrity of the page and maintains the digital chain of custody. When users find material they want to capture, they simply click on the “capture” button. Page Vault automatically scrolls through the entire webpage in seconds, taking a series of screenshots to accurately document the content.


Page Vault records the page exactly as it appeared, saves the source code, and records the webpage name, URL, IP address, time when it was captured, and other key metadata. The entire record is then hashed, timestamped, and saved on Page Vault’s secure server.


Users view their captures online in their secure personal Page Vault account. Captures are organized with a standard directory structure, and can be downloaded individually or in bulk as PDF files. Each PDF has its capture metadata recorded on the first page to enhance legal admissibility.



Protects Integrity of Electronically Stored Information (ESI)

Chad wrote a great blog post underlining the importance of preserving ESI integrity during discovery, where he points out that “proving the authenticity of electronic data is often important in criminal matters and when the authenticity of individual files is disputed in civil litigation.” Chad also emphasized the importance of documenting the chain of custody.


Page Vault is built to ensure that:

  • ESI from the web is not altered during collection and captures are exact copies of original data,
  • ESI cannot be altered after capture, and
  • The digital chain of custody is maintained and documented.


Page Vault allows the user to directly control exactly what is captured, but keeps the end-user from entering the chain of custody — this approach makes capturing webpages as easy as surfing the web, but still allows Page Vault to serve as a trusted third party that can issue affidavits regarding the veracity of the content.


This is possible because the Page Vault browser is hosted on our servers, and the actual webpage collection is done on a secure computer instead of at the user’s location. The user experience of the Page Vault browser is identical to that of a standard desktop browser, but the cloud-architecture prevents manipulation of the captured content. (This is fundamentally different from software that simply runs locally, such as a downloaded app or browser plugin, because content can always be easily manipulated with these approaches and the user is not insulated from the chain of custody.)


When the user clicks on the “Capture” button, the captured record of the page goes directly from the hosted browser to Page Vault’s server. The ESI never crosses the “desktop” of the user.


In this way, Page Vault acts as “trusted third party” by maintaining control over the entire capture process and retaining hashed timestamps for later authentication if necessary. Page Vault also provides affidavits describing this process that can be submitted along with productions.



Integrates ESI into e-discovery tools

Page Vault is a member of kCura’s Relativity Ecosystem and offers direct integration with Relativity: users may export selected captures directly into their Relativity workspace from their Page Vault account. Page Vault exports the PDF, source code, and metadata associated with the capture.


Users can also choose bulk file downloads with automatically generated load files (compatible with Relativity and Concordance); the entire pack can then be easily uploaded into the user’s e-discovery platform.


Individual litigants can capture websites without risk to integrity of ESI

In cases where a client or litigant is better positioned to find and capture webpage evidence than the attorney or e-discovery consultant, Page Vault offers an ideal solution. Attorneys or e-discovery consultants may set up a client with their own password protected account (at no additional expense to the firm or consultant) and allow the client to capture the relevant webpages. Because Page Vault is easy to install and use, clients require no specific technical knowledge to use it. The attorney can then access the captured webpage  contents immediately and integrate them into the e-discovery project.


More importantly, because Page Vault excludes users from the digital chain of custody, it keeps the collected files from being altered (inadvertently or otherwise) by clients who may be unfamiliar with best practices for collection of ESI. In that way, attorneys can avoid disasters like this case, where a litigant responded to a discovery request by copying text by hand from Facebook posts onto looseleaf paper.


More on Page Vault

Page Vault also offers custom collection and site vaulting services.  To learn more about Page Vault software for your firm, or about our custom bulk capture services, sign up here to learn more.


Posted on January 27, 2016 in E-Discovery, Electronically Stored Information (ESI), ESI Collection, ESI preservation, Evidence, Legal Technology, Social Media, Software, Websites

About the Author

Chad Main is an attorney and the founder of Percipient. Prior to founding Percipient, Chad worked as a litigator in Los Angeles and Chicago. He is a member of the Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program Committee and may be reached at cmain@percipient.co.