How To Gather Digital Evidence of Trade Secret Theft

How To Gather Digital Evidence of Trade Secret Theft

Last year, five employees from HTC made headlines when they were arrested for allegedly stealing trade secrets from the company, according to a post by Zach Epstein on the BGR. Their high-level positions at the company were within the product design team, including the senior design team manager, vice president of product design, and research and development director.

To gather evidence against HTC employees such as these, “the starting point has always been to dig around in the contents of the employee’s email account, work laptop, BlackBerry or iPhone,” says Morna Mackenzie of Squire Sanders. But she warns that nowadays employees are more technologically sophisticated and aware that this will be the first place an employer will look, so they’re more cautious when using these accounts and devices.

In addition to looking in common places, Mackenzie provides some tips on trends in digital evidence and how employers can further safeguard their secrets:

  • Forensic data: Employees’ browsing time lines, keyword searches, page views or printed and Google map data can help “piece together a chronology of their movements which can lead you in the direction of more solid evidence.”
  • Social media: Check out who they’ve been connecting to on LinkedIn and thoroughly peruse their Twitter feeds. “Perhaps they have been posting pictures on Instagram or Facebook with a great new restaurant they’ve been to. “Is that your client in the background?”
  • The cloud: It has made it easier for employees to walk away with trade secrets—without physically carrying anything. But luckily, uploads to Google Drive, Drop Box, Flickr and other cloud services can be traced through forensics.

Attorney Marlisse Silver Sweeney is a freelance writer based in Vancouver. Twitter: @MarlisseSS. LTN: @lawtechnews.