Covert Collections: A Discreet Approach to Mobile Device Data Collection

Smart phone with digital data collection graphs

By: Steve Davis, Purpose Legal’s VP of Forensics & Investigations and Matthew Rasmussen, Founder & CEO at ModeOne

Covert collections refer to the discreet acquisition of data from a mobile device, typically without the awareness or consent of the subject. This method is highly sensitive and requires a deep understanding of the legal landscape, ethics, and technology, so we’ve pulled together this sneak peek into covert collections, highlighting alternative methods and key considerations.

What are Covert Collections?

Covert collections involve the secret acquisition of data, often used in law enforcement, corporate investigations, and occasionally, legal proceedings. The approach requires a balanced act between achieving investigative goals and respecting legal and ethical boundaries.

Alternative Methods to Covert Full Imaging

  • Remote Access: Remotely access a device to collect specific data, which can be conducted without physical access to the device.
  • Live Monitoring: Observe and record activities on a device in real-time to capture transient data that may not be stored on the device.
  • Network-Based Collections: Collect data as it transits through a network and allow for interception without touching the actual device.
  • Selective Extraction: Collect only specific files or data categories relevant to the investigation. The benefits that there is minimal intrusion and is more focused than full imaging.

Key Considerations for Covert Collections

  • Legal Compliance: Ensuring that all actions taken are in strict accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
  • Ethical Considerations: Balancing the need for information with ethical obligations, including privacy rights.
  • Technical Expertise: Utilizing specialized skills and tools that enable covert collections without detection.
  • Defensibility: Making sure the collected data maintains its integrity and is legally sound for potential use in court.
  • Risk Management: Assessing and mitigating risks associated with covert actions, including potential legal liabilities.

In Summary Covert collections present a nuanced and complex approach to mobile device data collection, but also a more targeted and discreet way to obtain necessary information. It also demands careful planning, execution, and oversight. Understanding the alternative methods available, as well as the intricate legal landscape, is paramount to conducting covert collections responsibly and effectively.