Suppose you use the same discovery method to authenticate digital video evidence stored in the cloud as you would with video stored on a device. In that case, you may incorrectly target the machine that produced the video, spend the client’s money on unnecessary device acquisition methodology, and waste the court’s time on evidentiary issues rather than legal ones. Many video camera providers, such as Ring, don’t store files on the device but stream and encode them to the cloud, providing additional data on the device through user access. This is where experts can assist with authenticate ring video evidence in court.
Authenticate Ring Video in Court
A client may bring several versions of recorded evidence in varying formats from a Ring security camera to proffer evidence in a court proceeding. These recordings may have been trimmed or converted in order to maximize compatibility and relevance to the case. In this instance, you can expect the opposing counsel and their expert witness to object to the recordings, claiming they lack the necessary foundation to authenticate and admit them into evidence, most commonly reliant on metadata analysis alone.
Ring customers use a device to record videos and a Ring Protect plan to store them in the cloud. Under the plan, the camera detects movement and streams the video to Ring’s cloud storage, where the customer can access or share it for up to 180 days. The Ring device can also record video segments viewed in real-time (e.g., livestream) once a viewer gains access to the stream from the camera. In addition to the video, Ring logs data on what the camera did when it took the video and the interactions with the user account associated with the stored video.
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Ring has law enforcement guidelines for search warrants and procedures to respond to government requests, court subpoenas, and preservation orders. Ring also supplies tools for customers to export their data from their services, allowing customers to access their accounts, download videos, and extract logs. Pay attention to the self-service tools. The Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE) recommends using such tools, which will likely provide examiners with the highest quality video and additional data (SWGDE Best Practices for Digital & Multimedia Evidence Video Acquisition from Cloud Storage).
Whether your client brings the entire video to you or creates video clips from the downloaded videos stored in a non-native container (e.g., formatting), opposing counsel may object to introducing the video or the clips into evidence, arguing that your client tampered with the videos. This is common in a situation where the opposing expert is unaware of advanced methodology to authenticate the digital video file, such as a structural analysis in a non-native container, which requires examination of a known structural sample for device identification. The opposition may even seek a spoliation sanction with additional discovery requests targeting your client’s smartphone, which can further complicate the video authentication issues. Authenticate ring video in court makes this a simpler process.
Many judges will not want to delay proceedings with additional discovery. The parties should agree on the information necessary for video authentication. Yet, opposing counsel’s expert witness may want to interrogate your client’s smartphone to find the truth or to perform what is commonly referred to as a “fishing expedition”. In that case, you have an expert-on-expert impasse, which rests on the fate of an argument of what is the most accurate, widely acceptable scientific methodology.
Dueling Expert Witnesses
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Digital video authentication is a complex process to establish the provenance of a questioned recording to assess whether it is consistent with or altered from an original recording. Your opposing counsel and their expert witness may believe they need your client’s smartphone. But Ring live-streams video to cloud storage, where customers access it on demand. Opposing counsel may ask your client, “How do we know what you’re telling us is true?” Instead, they should ask, “What’s relevant and admissible?”
If an opposing expert knows the scientific methodology to compare the video clips to the original, containerized video file, there would be no authentication issue. When an expert focuses on a specific smartphone, hoping it will lead to additional information about the circumstances under which the video was created, who created it, and more, it goes against the scientific community’s best practices and standards regarding video authentication—focusing on context authentication. Although this type of investigation has a place in the courtroom, the inquiry should square off on whether the non-trimmed video files are consistent or altered from the original recording. Turn your attention to how Ring creates video.
Source Identification Process
First, look at a recording to know its provenance: where it has been and what it represents. One question to keep in mind: Was the recording made by someone else watching the video?
Compare how Ring produced the video and how your client created the proffered evidence. One of the most effective ways to authenticate a digital video file in forensic video analysis is to perform a structural analysis of the native container with which the device was created by examining an exemplar recording (e.g., a known sample). Test the same make/model Ring device as your client used and create several exemplar recordings. Compare metadata attributes and the native Ring container’s digital structure using a tool like Medex (see image below). The analysis can reveal a match with the signature of a known, unaltered Ring recording, alleviating any concerns for the reliability of the submitted supplemental evidence recordings.
Furthermore, examine the video stream/frame hash from the Ring server via a desktop browser and compare it with a video downloaded using the Ring App on a smartphone. The analysis may demonstrate that the acquisition process doesn’t affect the visual or digital integrity of the video images. Finally, the video log file can authenticate the date/time within the video file metadata and correlate with the log file acquired from the client’s Ring user account.
Change the Frame of Inquiry With Cloud-Based Video
When a video is live-streamed to cloud storage, scientific methods exist to authenticate the evidence rather than time-consuming alternatives by acquiring a smartphone. Ignore them at the cost of your client and the court’s time.
Cloud-sourced video evidence has officially hit critical mass, which testifies as a silent witness in a court of law. Suppose you have a recording generated by a Ring camera or other cloud-sourced video camera and need to understand the circumstances under which the recordings were created. In that case, forensic video analysis methodology can be helpful. More specifically, video authentication methodology can simplify over-complicated situations in litigation and save your clients time and money.
If you would like to speak to an expert about how video authentication works, you can request a consultation HERE