Digital Forensics Dispatch

Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Digital Forensics: Social Media Data

May 11, 2023

It is no surprise to us that social media data has become one of the most requested sets of data for investigations and analysis. In fact, a recent article by Daniel Ruby of, states that “[there] are 4.9 billion social media users in the world as of March 2023.”

That is not a small number of people. Sensei’s digital forensic examiners often field questions about what data can be found in social media accounts, and the answer is . . .  it depends. There are a lot of social media platforms out there, and how to get data from them can differ.

In many cases, the social media platforms offer ways for a user to export some of their data that is  stored with the platform. What data is available though an export will depend on what data is being stored by the various social media platforms.

With social media, there are usually two kinds of data, public and private. Public data is what is available to pretty much anyone. An example of some public data would be a Facebook post made by a public profile (one that has its settings configured to share data with anyone who visits their profile).

Public data can also include comments on posts and other information such as names, profile names, pictures, videos and more. With this data, it does depend on how the profile is configured, as with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram a user can set their profile to private.

Private data is a little harder to collect than public data. This data will require a username and password for the account. This information can include private messages, posts, and more.

To collect social media data, there are a few options, such as exporting data from the social media platform, using forensic tools that collect public and private social media data, and even collecting smartphones.

With smartphones, the ability to view social media data will depend greatly on the support for interpreting an app’s specific data. In some cases, social media data such as direct or private messages from Facebook Messenger or Instagram can be found from a collection of a smartphone.

Additionally, for collecting social media data, there is always the route of a legal request to the social media platform. The platform may store data that could help with a case or investigation that is not available publicly or from a smartphone.

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Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology