Digital Forensics Dispatch

Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Photo Metadata Forensics in Depp v. Heard Trial              

June 2, 2022

Recently in the, finally completed Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard defamation trial, a digital forensic expert was asked to give his opinion on the EXIF metadata contained in a number of pictures provided as evidence by Ms. Heard’s team. April Fowell, at Tech Times, wrote a brief article describing that testimony.

EXIF metadata is a type of file metadata specific to digital photo files. EXIF, short for Exchangeable image file format, is a technical standard used to specify the formats of digital image files from devices like cameras and scanners. The EXIF data found in photo files can include camera settings and image metrics like focal length and resolution as well as date and time information and even geolocation data in some circumstances.

The expert, Norman Neumeister, testified to a review of the photo files’ metadata and pointed to a number of factors that would indicate the photos were not originals as they would have been created on a mobile phone and may have been edited. He pointed to the “Software” entry of Photos 3.0 or 1.5 in the metadata of some of the photos as an indicator that the photos had been processed and potentially modified in the Apple Photos software. He also highlighted discrepancies in file size information stating the files “all had to go through some type of transformation to change sizes.”

Neumeister also pointed out that because of the way in which the files had been produced, without a proper preservation of the phone they had alleged to have been created with, there was no way to authenticate them 100%, an all too common problem with self-collected digital evidence.

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