What role do KML-files play in shaping “open source” forensic research on Google Earth? A socio-technological affordance analysis on how KML-files are utilized in collective intelligence, research, sharing in the construction of forensic evidence.
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Google developed the free application Google Earth in 2005, and made satellite imagery visible and accessible to the general public. The standardization of Google Earth regulates how the public reads and understands these geospatial-images and literally produces our worldview. Simultaneously it provides a treasure trove of evidential information for digital forensic investigators. Google Earth has been embraced by digital forensic investigators as (an open) source for geolocation data and tool to collect potential evidence. This paper reviews how Google Earth functions as an open source forensics tool, demonstrating the socio-technological affordances of the Keyhole Markup Language (KML) files that can be created by any user to define locations, add overlays and expose rich data in novel ways – easily shared and adjusted. To demonstrate the power of the application a forensic scenario will be (re)traced.