The case of the disappearing text messages


I ran across an interesting mobile phone application the other day called Tiger Text (also called the cheating spouse app). Tiger Text is an app that bills itself as a tool to help people “cover their tracks”, in this case tracks that are left when sending traditional text messages from phone to phone.  What Tiger Text does is enable a user to send text messages back and forth to others also using Tiger Text and not worry about the text message being found by someone else, because messages sent via Tiger Text will essentially self destruct within a specified timeframe.

When you send a text message using Tiger Text, the content of your message is never sent to the recipient’s phone as it does when you send a standard text message.  Since the message doesn’t reside on the recipient’s phone, but rather stored on Tiger Text’s servers, you are given full control when the messages are deleted from Tiger Text’s servers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see from the screen shots above, once the messages are gone, they are gone.  You can set messages to ‘Delete on Read’ or set your own time limit such as 2 hours, 4 hours, etc. Keep in mind that both sender and recipient must have the Tiger Text application installed for the capability to work (there is a free reader if the other person doesn’t want to buy Tiger Text), and if a message is set to expire at a specified time period and it’s not read, then it’s gone forever. This “Delete” capability can be set from the menu shown below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The actual content of TigerText messages are erased from the sender’s phone, the recipient’s phone and all servers when the message expires. TigerText does not allow the user to copy or save a message, however if someone really wanted to they could video capture your TigerText, take a screen shot, or take a photo of their phone. TigerText cannot promise that your messages will not be copied by some alternative means. Be smart! Anyone can take a picture of a phone.

Tiger Text is available for iPhones, Blackberrys, Microsoft powered mobile phones and Android phones.

What’s this got to do with eDiscovery?

With above description in mind, it occurred to me that this application could cause some problems for the eDiscovery process.

  1. If a custodian is using this application while they are potentially a party to litigation and are using this app to send or receive information relevant to the case, are they guilty of destruction of evidence? In my opinion, absolutely!
  2. How could you place and enforce a litigation hold on this data? The answer is you can’t.
  3.  How would an organization collecting responsive data for eDiscovery even know to look for this capability? It all comes down to knowing the technology landscape and asking the right questions of custodians such as “do you utilize any applications or other processes on any computing devices including cell phones which automatically delete ESI?”
  4. So what’s an organization to do? The only thing you can do is forbid installing these kinds of applications on any organization assets and audit to see that custodians are following the policy. You obviously can’t do anything about what employees do with their own non-company owned devices except to reiterate that company related business should never be conducted over non-company owned devices (and its always a good idea to remind employees that if they do use their own devices for company business this will open their personal computers, phones etc to eDiscovery).

The main point is to be aware of these capabilities and to look for them when in eDiscovery.

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