Social-lift is a tool for disclosing selected parts of social media activities in a forensically sound way. It uses the notion of Verifiable Limited Disclosure (VLD) which enables witnesses, victims and suspects to give information from their social media accounts to an investigator while redacting irrelevant information to maintain their privacy. Citizens can maintain some privacy because they do not have to reveal their passwords and other private information from their timeline that is not relevant to their report. Both the citizens and the law enforcement officials are able to automatically verify the authenticity and completeness of the information submitted.

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FAQ

It’s an application for citizens to give evidence from their social media accounts to police investigations without having to give up their passwords or necessarily share the entire timelines.
It’s good for privacy: you can keep what’s truly private to yourselves. It’s good for security: password sharing is never a good idea, and it is probably against the terms of use on social media services. Social-Lift does not keep your password, but when you install Social-Lift on Facebook, it will have access to your timeline so that you can select the part of your timeline you want to send to the police. You will receive a copy of the email containing the material sent to the police from your account. You can always uninstall Social-Lift when you have no need for it. Social-Lift does not store any part of your timeline.
It is easy to manipulate computer-generated images but it is very difficult to verify them. Social-Lift does not take screenshots, but extracts the data from the timelines directly. The use of cryptographic tools allows automatic checking of the data for completeness and integrity.
It’s good for search: rather than having to trawl through a lot of material, you can focus on what’s important right away. For high-volume cases, it can save you a lot of resources. It’s good for public trust: people will know that they don’t have to give up their privacy completely in order to help police investigations.
Social-Lift works best as part of a wider evidence submission procedure. Before using the application, the police and the citizen should agree as to what will be the scope of the timeline. For example, it may be clear from an initial discussion that, say, only the activities between 1-Jan-2016 to 10-Feb-2017 are of interest in a particular investigation. If the scope changes after examining the evidence, the citizen can be asked to submit again using a new scope. So, this could be an iterative process. In cases where the police need to examine the entire timeline, that will be the scope. Social-Lift will guarantee the completeness and integrity of everything within the scope.
Scope can be defined in terms of dates and the friends, and it can be defined iteratively. Social-Lift can also be used when the entire timeline should be submitted. Citizens can do that without having to reveal their passwords. Remember that evidence may come from a victim as well as an accused/suspect, so there are different opportunities for cross-checking.
Facebook currently does not allow anyone to view deleted posts, including the account owners themselves. Therefore, even if the police obtain passwords to Facebook accounts, they won’t able to view deleted posts. Recovery of deleted messages tends to involve examination of different devices to see if there might be a duplicate copy of the posts. Modified posts have their dates changed, so it may be clear that a post has been modified but we are not able to view the original posts.
You can’t use Social-Lift to make someone reveal their Facebook timeline against their will.
Social-Lift does not keep a copy of an entire timeline. So, to get the same evidence at a later date, Social-Lift will send the same query to the Facebook database. There is no reason to think that Facebook will change someone’s timeline arbitrarily. In our limited experience, a query always yield the same result. If the police need the entire timeline, they should ask for it.
We have a method for extracting only the core content of a timeline such as posts, images and vidoes, into a static structure leaving out all the dynamic contents, such as adverts.
Currently Social-Lift extracts material only from the Facebook timeline.
It has not been tested in court yet. We are currently working closely with UK police forces and CPS to rectify this.
Apologies for the inconvenience. Social-Lift is still a research prototype, but please email vld@open.ac.uk with the details, and we will do our best to fix it.

About Us

Thein
Tun

Danny
Barthaud

Arosha
Bandara

Blaine
Price

Yijun
Yu

Bashar
Nuseibeh

This project has been developed by Open University researchers in partnership with the Centre for Policing Research and Learning and its consortium. It is also supported by the ERC Advanced Grant on Adaptive Security and Privacy (291652 - ASAP).