The Digital Records Forensics (DRF) Project was a 3-year collaboration (April 2008-April 2011) between the University of British Columbia's School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS), the UBC Faculty of Law, and the Computer Forensics Division of the Vancouver Police Department.
This research addressed the following challenges presented by digital technology to the records management, archival and legal professions:
- The identification of records among all the digital objects produced by complex digital systems, and
- the determination of their authenticity
- when digital materials are kept outside of the technological environment in which they were produced and/or maintained either by the creating body itself or by third parties like police departments or archival organizations; and
- when records are of uncertain origin and/or exist in proprietary formats that are hard to maintain over time, thus compromising their long-term research value or their ability to be submitted and/or admitted as evidence in a trial.
The research objectives were:
- to develop concepts and methods that will allow the records management, archival, legal, judicial, and law enforcement professions to recognize records among all kinds of digital objects produced by digital technologies once they have been removed from the original system;
- to develop concepts and methods for determining the authenticity of records no longer in the original system and/or in the original format;
- to develop methods for maintaining records acquired from crime scenes or created by police to pursue crime over the long term so that their authenticity will not be questioned; and
- to develop the theoretical and methodological content of a new discipline, called “Digital Records Forensics,” resulting from an integration of Archival Diplomatics, Computer Forensics and the Law of Evidence with the project’s newly developed knowledge.
The methodology included:
- a comparative examination of the scholarly literature in the fields of Computer Forensics, Evidence Law and Archival Diplomatics;
- an analysis of case law in North America;
- interviews with legal, forensics, and records professionals from law enforcement, computer forensics, the courts, the judiciary.
Who benefits from the research products?
- law enforcement professionals like police and the courts;
- the legal profession;
- records keepers, like records managers and archivists;
- records users, such as journalists, scholarly researchers and citizens who wish to hold businesses and government accountable for their actions; and, ultimately,
- records creators in both the public and private sectors, be they individuals or organizations.