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What Is Internet Evidence?

Renee Booker
Renee Booker

In the digital age, almost everything a person does leaves an electronic signature. In many legal systems throughout the world, that signature can amount to internet evidence that may be used in a civil or criminal trial. Financial records, email correspondence, downloaded files, and transcripts from chat rooms or social networking sites are just some of the examples of what may be considered internet evidence that may ultimately be used as evidence at a trial.

In a civil trial, a person's financial records are frequently an issue. In a simple divorce case, for instance, one of the parties may accuse the other of hiding or concealing assets. The use of electronic banking makes evidence of financial transactions available as internet evidence in many jurisdictions.

Issues of privacy on the Internet and in email are of increasing concern to many people.
Issues of privacy on the Internet and in email are of increasing concern to many people.

Civil disputes for a breach of contract may also make use of internet evidence. Many people use email as the primary form of communication in today's digital age. As a result, many contract negotiations are recorded through e-mail correspondence. When a dispute comes up over the agreed upon terms, the emails may be introduced at a trial to support a person's position.

Internet evidence take from an employee's computer might be used to build a case for firing the employee.
Internet evidence take from an employee's computer might be used to build a case for firing the employee.

Criminal prosecutions frequently make use of internet evidence. For serious crimes, a search warrant may be obtained to confiscate and analyze the contents of a suspect's computer for everything from money laundering records to child pornography. Many people are under the mistaken impression that when they delete a file from a computer that the file is actually gone forever. In reality, most deleted files can be easily resurrected by trained information technology experts.

In some criminal prosecutions, evidence obtained from a computer may simply be circumstantial evidence of a crime. For example, chat room messages or social networking messages may simply prove a connection between a suspect and a victim. Financial records may show the existence of money that cannot be explained by the suspect's legitimate employment but does not, in and of itself, prove that a crime was committed.

Other internet evidence may actually be direct evidence of a crime. Photographs on a person's home computer that depict child pornography, for example, is a crime by itself in many jurisdictions. In addition, many jurisdictions have enacted statutes that address crimes committed on the internet, such as cyberstalking or electronic harassment. If evidence of threats made to a person via email or chat rooms is located on a person's computer, that may be direct evidence of cyberstalking or a similar crime.

Discussion Comments


I am going through some bad times with my husband .

He's computer smart and he has posted videos with the help of his Interne friends and made videos of me and my family, putting together my voice he recorded in secret.

I found out through this net group he's involved in that he has hacked into my phone and other family members' phones, and don't tell me this can't be done.

I have found where it looks like he has made comic books and magazines about me and my daughter.

Has anyone heard of Surrey University in the UK? This university pays people for private info, then this info is set up in a classroom and talked about and discussed to put their spin on this info to say yes or no if you're crazy or depressed.

The slander and stalking has all been done to cover up his dirty internet crimes.

What can a person do to stop this and to protect their family? This is an international Internet group of hackers and attackers. Does anyone have any advice or info?


@strawCake – I completely agree and hope that the law can catch up to technology, and I hope that they can do it on the double.

The fact is that there aren’t that many people out there who truly understand the whole scope of what can be done on the web today, and the ones who do are often on the other side of the law.

We need to get our lawmakers and enforcers educated in the new ways of the world, my friend. Cheers!


Although I completely understand why internet evidence is so important and critical, it honestly scares me just a little bit. After all, the only thing that a person needs to be you on the internet is a few passwords and usernames. Itdoesn't take a whole lot for a dedicated hacker to get that information.

I’m sorry, but I work online and I have about a million different usernames and passwords. I have to write them down and keep them on file so that I don’t get confused.

Now, let’s just say that my husband decides for whatever reason that he needs to see that I get into trouble (he wouldn’t do that; I’m just making a point). He could absolutely stir up some internet evidence without a problem at all.

There have even been instances recently where people have been arrested for child pornography because it was traced back to their wireless networks with some sort of internet evidence finder. Come to find out, it was other people using their WIFI without their permission because their network wasn’t locked.

Like I said – totally scary stuff in my opinion.


A lot of people feel that badmouthing others and posting videos of people fighting is funny, but in the long run it can end with the participants being jailed or facing hefty fines. You constantly hear about cases these days where some teenager thought it was hilarious to capture bullying and put it on YouTube.

Videos of students beating other students in schoolyard brawls have led to criminal convictions. I think that Internet evidence is a powerful tool and we should all be aware of how it can be used in court.

Even spreading rumors online can be powerful evidence in slander cases. People can easily show postings on message boards and in blogs.


I think being aware of how Internet evidence is collected is a good way to moderate what you put on the Internet. If you look at most social networking sites, they only guarantee your privacy to a certain extent. If the police come knocking you can be certain they'll turn over any of your postings and photos in a heartbeat.

Nothing we do on the Internet is secret, despite how much we would like to think it is. If you wouldn’t say something in person or show it to your friends, I would resist posting it online, where there is a permanent record.


I think that many people don’t realize that what they do online is never erased.

When a suspect is arraigned in a murder case, for example, even if he doesn’t admit to having committed the crime, it’s sometimes very easy to determine his culpability.

We had a case recently where someone shot someone else, and the cops found that the suspect spent a lot of time online. They traced all of his online posts, and found that they were the rantings of a madman. This is palpable evidence, in addition to files retrieved from his computer.

I am constantly telling my kids to quit posting their diaries online and revealing so much information about themselves. Even though they’re not committing crimes, that information could possibly be used against them someday, even if they’re not at fault.


@lighth0se33 - I know! I've often been surprised when wonderful friends turn into enemies, and we communicate so much through email these days, it never hurts to keep a record!


@seag47 - Yes, they did convict him. The emails he had sent to the victim also helped lead them in their investigation and bring him to justice. I never delete any personal email, no matter how insignificant it might seem! You just never know what might arise in the future, you know?


@lighth0se33 - Wow! Aren't you glad you stopped him when you did! Did they ever convict him of the murder?


I am grateful for internet evidence. I was threatened repeatedly through my email by someone whom I considered a friend. At first, I thought he was joking, but when it persisted, I knew that I should contact the police.

He began just by letting me know that he had received training in the military that enabled him to kill a man. Okay, that struck me as strange to mention, but then he started sending me photographs of various weapons in his home. Then, he let me know that his ability to kill a person with his bare hands combined with his access to weapons made him someone I should obey.

He eventually wanted me to deliver mysterious packages for him, and he told me that if I refused, he would see to my demise. The police took my computer and used the emails as evidence. It turns out he was a person of interest in a murder case in another state.


@strawcake - Sorry to hear about your friend. I agree, the laws do need to be updated. I know some states have cyberstalking laws but I think a federal law would be in order here.

I know a lot of people feel anonymous on the internet, like what they say isn't real. But it is, and people like your friend can get hurt. I think a federal law would help get the idea out that the internet is real life too.


Although some types of internet evidence are widely used in court I feel like in some areas the law hasn't caught up to the technology yet. A friend of mine was a victim of some serious cyberstalking. The stalking extended to email, facebook, and a forum she was part of. It got so bad she ended up in therapy.

Part of the reason she was so traumatized is because law enforcement in her area didn't do anything to help her. Even though she was being stalked the police couldn't prove the other person had committed a crime.

I'm really hoping one day soon the laws will be updated so people like my friend can actually get some help!

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    • Issues of privacy on the Internet and in email are of increasing concern to many people.
      By: a4stockphotos
      Issues of privacy on the Internet and in email are of increasing concern to many people.
    • Internet evidence take from an employee's computer might be used to build a case for firing the employee.
      By: jivan child
      Internet evidence take from an employee's computer might be used to build a case for firing the employee.