Digital forensics, an overused term | File Formats Blog

Exciting terms get overused and worn down with time. I can remember when “awesome” meant magnificent, extraordinary, awe-inspiring. Today it’s barely stronger than “that’s nice.” Maybe it’s inevitable; people like to use words with a strong punch, even when they’re excessive.

“Digital forensics” is an example. Dictionaries say forensics is the study of issues in public discussion or debate. We usually think about it in connection with technical investigation of legal issues. Was a crime committed? If so, who did it and how? With so much of the world being computerized, people can legitimately use the term for a lot of digital activities, like identifying forgeries and attacks. I used the term for my own investigation of a defect in Honda’s MP3 players.

In the library and archiving world, though, some people are using it just because “data analysis” sounds awfully (there’s another word that’s been worn down) dull.