What are some examples of digital evidence?

Digital evidence refers to any information or data stored or transmitted in a digital format that can be relied on as evidence. Examples include text messages, emails, digital photos, and internet browsing history. Digital evidence is extremely important in criminal investigations and court cases today as more and more communication and data is created electronically. Analyzing digital evidence has become a key part of establishing motives, events, connections and timelines related to crimes. The abundance of personal data stored on computers and smartphones means that digital evidence can help reconstruct events and provide insights that would have been nearly impossible in the past. As society becomes increasingly digital, understanding how to properly collect, analyze and present digital evidence will only become more vital for the justice system.


Emails can provide important digital evidence in the form of dates, times, senders, recipients, and message content. The metadata contained in an email header reveals when the message was sent and received, as well as the IP addresses of the sender and recipient. Email investigations typically involve forensic analysis of email servers and clients to extract, preserve, and authenticate email evidence (1).

The content of an email message itself can provide incriminating statements, attachments, or other details relevant to an investigation. Forensic analysis of emails often looks for key phrases and communications indicative of criminal conspiracy, harassment, security breaches, or other unlawful activities (2).

There are specialized tools and techniques for retrieving deleted emails, examining email attachments, and recovering encrypted messages (3). Proper email header analysis can also reveal if an email has been spoofed or falsified. Overall, email provides a trove of timestamped communication that can serve as key digital evidence in both civil and criminal cases.


(1) https://www.stellarinfo.com/blog/email-forensics-investigation-guide-for-security-experts/

(2) https://www.salvationdata.com/knowledge/email-forensics-definition-and-guideline/

(3) https://www.forensicfocus.com/articles/email-forensics-investigation-techniques/

Text Messages

Text messages can be powerful forms of digital evidence. The content of text messages can reveal details about communications between parties that may be relevant to a legal case. Additionally, text messages contain metadata like the date, time, and phone numbers involved that can help establish a timeline of events.

The actual message content in text conversations can potentially demonstrate motives, provide eyewitness accounts, reveal a defendant’s location at a certain time, expose threats or criminal intent, and much more. As personal communications, text messages often contain candid details that individuals may not share publicly. This evidence can potentially be incriminating.

According to a Howe Law Firm article, text messages have become increasingly common forms of evidence in both civil and criminal cases. However, proper handling is required for text messages to be admissible in court. Parties seeking to submit text messages as evidence must be able to authenticate the messages and prove they have not been altered or edited. Overall though, when properly collected and authenticated, text messages can serve as compelling forms of digital evidence.

Social Media Posts

Social media posts, messages, images, videos, and metadata can be extremely valuable sources of digital evidence. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat all store massive amounts of user-generated content that may be relevant to legal cases. According to Source 1, evidence can be found in many places on social media including comments, replies, videos, photos, and more. Source 2 notes that admissible evidence from social media can include posts, shares, likes, and friend lists. Investigators can analyze patterns of online behavior and connections to build timelines or establish motives.

Photos and videos can provide visual evidence of crimes and events. Timestamps, geotags, and other metadata can pinpoint when and where evidence originated. While private messages require legal procedures to access, public-facing content is readily available. Social platforms utilize powerful data retention so that “deleted” content may still be recovered. Overall, the massive digital traces people leave on social media create a treasure trove of potential evidence for civil and criminal cases.

Digital Photos & Videos

Digital photos and videos captured on cell phones, security cameras, and other devices are now routinely used as evidence in court cases. According to sources, digital photos are generally admissible if they accurately represent the subject and have not been tampered with or manipulated (L-Tron). The metadata embedded in digital photos and videos can provide critical information about when and where they were taken.

Metadata includes details like the date, time, and GPS coordinates that can prove where and when a photo or video was captured. This metadata ties the photo or video to the alleged scene of the crime or incident. Additionally, the content of photos and videos can provide evidence of activities and events relevant to the case (Connor Reporting). However, attorneys may challenge the authenticity or admissibility of digital photos and videos in some cases.

Internet History

One of the most common and telling forms of digital evidence is a person’s internet browsing history. This includes the record of websites visited and search engine queries made from a computer or mobile device (Howelawfirm, 2023). Forensic analysis of internet history can reveal the exact date, time, and duration of access to any given website or search query. It provides a timeline and context of a person’s online activities (Howelawfirm, 2023).

Browsing history and search queries can provide crucial evidence in criminal, civil, or internal investigations. They give insight into a person’s interests, intent, state of mind, and actions. Internet history evidence has been successfully used in cases involving cybercrime, fraud, IP theft, employment disputes, and more. Examination should be conducted by trained digital forensics experts to properly collect, document, and authenticate internet history evidence (Oh et al., 2011).

Computer Files

Computer files stored on a device’s hard drive can serve as key digital evidence in investigations and court cases. Documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other files often contain relevant data like time stamps, metadata, and content that provide insights into user activity (Computer Log Files as Evidence, Computer Forensics, and Digital Investigations | Howell Law Firm). For example, a Word document’s metadata may reveal the document’s creation date, author, and editing history. Emails, instant messages, and other communications stored as computer files can provide critical evidence as well. Overall, computer files found on hard drives, external storage devices, in the cloud, and elsewhere often contain a wealth of information that can shed light on events and user actions.

GPS & Location Data

GPS and location data from a variety of digital sources can provide important evidence in investigations and legal cases. According to Howe Law Firm, GPS evidence from mobile phones can connect a person to a crime scene by pinpointing their location at a specific time. GPS navigation systems and apps also log movement history that can retrace routes and stops.

Cell tower connections and wi-fi networks can also help triangulate approximate locations of digital devices, according to digitpol. Location data is extracted from devices through digital forensics and then mapped for analysis. Overall, any digital technology that records time-stamped location information can potentially serve as GPS evidence. It provides investigators a window into the physical movements and whereabouts of individuals.

Digital Payment Records

Transaction logs from apps, websites, and banks provide detailed records of digital purchases, payments, and transfers made by an individual. These records include timestamps, account numbers, recipient information, and the amount of each transaction. Digital payment records are a key form of digital evidence as they provide proof of payments and a timeline of spending habits and financial transactions.

For example, Venmo transaction logs can show peer-to-peer payments made through the app. PayPal records detail online purchases and peer payments. Bank statements capture debit card purchases, ATM withdrawals, mobile deposits, and wire transfers. Credit card statements similarly log every credit transaction. These detailed payment records can serve as critical evidence in criminal and civil legal cases.

Law enforcement and lawyers can subpoena digital payment records from companies as digital evidence. The records can corroborate alibis, identify illicit transactions, or uncover spending that violates court orders like child support. The timestamped transactions provide an accurate timeline that can support investigations and legal arguments (url of legal subpoena info source)


In summary, digital evidence plays a critical role in investigations and legal proceedings today. As we have seen, some key examples of digital evidence include:

Emails – The headers, content, attachments, and metadata of emails can provide insight into communications between parties. Email evidence may uncover motive, conspiring, or admissions of guilt.

Text messages – The raw data inside cell phones that includes the content of text messages can serve as evidence. Texts may reveal intent, conspiring, or confirm relationships and timelines.

Social media posts – Public posts, images, videos, and metadata on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter can act as evidence and character evidence. Posts may demonstrate mindset, beliefs, and affiliations.

Digital photos and videos – Metadata like timestamps and geotags embedded in photo and video files can validate timelines and locations. The content itself can provide visual evidence of events, actions, and more.

As digital devices and online activities continue proliferating, digital evidence has become indispensable in investigations and prosecutions. Law enforcement leverages digital evidence to reconstruct events, establish motives and relationships between parties, place suspects at crime scenes, and uncover indisputable documentation of crimes. Going forward, the role of digital evidence will only grow.