This case involves a group of couples and individuals that were recorded in their hotel rooms in Colorado without their consent. After a woman discovered a hidden camera in the desk of her room, the hotel launched an internal investigation to determine the origin of the camera. The investigation revealed that a member of the housekeeping staff had been secretly recording hotel patrons for months. These videos were sold and uploaded to various pornography websites along with identifying information about the victims featured. Some of the identifying information included full names and home addresses which were added to the captions of each video. An expert in computer science and digital media was sought to determine how many times those videos were viewed and to discuss whether it would ever be possible to fully remove these videos from the Internet.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. How often do you work with or consult on web content issues involving personal/private data?
- 2. Once a video has been publically shared on a highly trafficked website, to what degree is it possible to ensure that the video is completely and permanently removed from the internet?
- 3. What methods could be used to track the viewership of such a video?
Expert Witness Response E-344255
I am very familiar with web content issues as it is certainly common to the work I’ve done in computer forensics with the FBI, DEA, and CIA over the past twenty years. It is impossible to remove the video from the internet completely. Videos can be downloaded and shared outside of the website from which they originated. In the case of a website that only allows streaming and not downloading, there is always a chance that they could be recorded via screen-recording software or even simply by holding another camera up to the screen. (This is a remote instance, but it’s certainly a possibility.) There is absolutely no way whatsoever to ensure that anything posted to the Internet has been permanently removed from the Internet. Additionally, your client’s video may have been posted to more than one site. You might only know of one site at this point. Typically people who illicitly record and post these items do so to multiple sites with similar interests. It is very difficult to track viewership of a video. Most websites maintain some kind of log system that might contain the IP address of the computers to which it has shown the video, but logs aren’t usually maintained long, and if you haven’t subpoenaed them quickly, the probability that logs going back more than a few days are gone is very high. That’s often the case with legitimate websites. It’s even more difficult for illegitimate ones.
Expert Witness Response E-037754
As a digital forensic specialist, I have worked on numerous cases that involved web content issues involving personal and private data. Once a video has been shared in a public format, it is hard to state to what degree it is possible to ensure the video is completely and permanently removed from the internet. However, it is possible to remove the video and give a better assessment once all the facts are gathered. The methods used to track the viewership of this video will depend on the website or sites that it is posted on and whether or not the video has been shared from those sites as well. I have worked on similar cases that involved pictures of a plaintiff being posted on social media and websites without their consent. I was able to track down the person responsible and to have those pictures removed and the sites shut down.