App that saves phone data aims to help victims of crime

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In a first of its kind, an application has been launched representing effective help to the victims of harassment, stalking, bullying and other crimes against the person.

Developed by Marco Testi, Marco Calonzi and Susanna Testi in Italy, and responding to both the European Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Convention No. 210) and the Italian law against stalking (38/2009a), MyTutela is an app based on an algorithm calculation associating with a hash value for collection, storage, cataloguing and validation in forensic mode and the presentation of digital evidence contained in the mobile phone (messages, chats, photos, audios).

According to a recent survey by Deloitte (Global Mobile consumer survey, 2017), the use of smartphones has seen a considerable increase in recent years, being now used by more than 97% of the over 16 aged population. This exponential growth related to the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices, together with chat and social networks, exposes more people, especially the most vulnerable categories, to crimes such as stalking and cyberbullying.

These crimes are often not reported by victims for different reasons, one of these being the difficulty in collecting the necessary elements required by police for the report. In fact, when a person decides to file a complaint, he/she must: remember all places and circumstances of the events; manually report messages proving the harassment and physically present themselves, often facing in situations of extreme discomfort. In order to have legal validity, the data collected manually must be validated following forensic procedures and methodologies, passing IT professionals to the judiciary. This is a long and expensive process which can prove stressful for victims, especially those who had been in a relationship with the other party.

Furthermore, in civil or criminal proceedings, one of the basic requirements for evidence to be admitted is its suitability to prove the facts to which it refers. ICT evidence, to be used in civil or criminal proceedings, must meet these requirements, especially from the point of view of the integrity of the data collected in order to avoid being repudiated by one of the parties. Integrity, especially in a context characterized by a high risk of alteration of the information or data stored or exchanged between digital devices, must be ensured to exclude undue modifications of the computerized trace, which occurred at the time following the creation of a source copy, on the appropriate support.

For these reasons, it is fundamental that, in the acquiring of evidence, the procedures of the digital forensics (the so-called “chain of custody”) are used and respected and that the computerized data must be validated with certified digital forensics methodologies. With MyTutela, it is possible to certify evidentiary materials in a forensic modality in case of violence, especially in cases of stalking and cyberbullying. According to the data of “Telefono Rosa” - Italian Association active in preventing gender and domestic violence - at least 8,856 women have been victims of violence and 1,261 of stalking during 2015. This is the tip of the iceberg as 90% of women do not report and within that percentage, 16.7% of the cases are “known violence”.

When we take into account cyberbullying, 52.7% of boys aged between 11 and 17 years suffered some form of the abuse according to data of the 2016 CENSIS Report. This percentage goes up when the age goes down, falling in a range 55.6% among girls and 53.3% among boys, aged between 11-13 years old. What is striking is the frequency of the episodes being at least once in a month, 1 out of 5 children (19.8%) is the subject of this type of abuse and this percentage increases among young people (22.5%).

The application’s objective is that victimised people neither have to worry how to save evidence proving their intended prosecution, nor to be trusted, since the application is itself able to collect data directly in a forensic mode, and even if the phone is lost or damaged during the criminal act, the data will not be lost. The app may also assist law enforcement services, by providing standardized reports and suitable instruments during the lawsuit/complaint to handle case management and evidentiary materials easily in the electronic format. This will mean a significant acceleration of red tape, quick concrete intervention against offenders, the case resolution in a short time, avoiding long waiting queue for the trials with the risk of undergoing stalking/cyberbullying and being physically attacked.

Marco Calonzi, Co-Founder of MyTutela

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