iMessage Adds Edit Button: What Does the Apple Update Mean for Evidence Preservation in Campus Cases?

June 14, 2022

We’ve all experienced it – the moment right after hitting “send” on a text message only to undergo imminent regret that leads to us asking “why did I write that?”. Fortunately for Apple users, that regret, or embarrassment, no longer needs to live on. With Apple’s iOS 16 update, users will be able to edit or recall iMessages for up to 15 minutes after sending a text. Users will also be able to recover deleted iMessages for up to 30 days after deleting the messages, in addition to being able to mark messages as unread.

New Apple Features Could Lead to Confusion

While all of these new features from Apple seemingly allow users to be more intentional about their communication, the features also create ample opportunity for miscommunication and second-guessing, especially among college students who fire off iMessages at light speed. Imagine, one second a message is there, and the next, it’s gone. Or, just after thinking up the perfect response to a message, you go to type and the message says something different. What about the unread feature – what’s so confusing about that? Any student will admit that having messages unread is practically worse than messages not being responded to at all. It leaves the sender wondering if the recipient is ignoring them on purpose or simply too busy to respond. The “Unread” text message status truly is the real world version of purgatory.

What Does This Update Mean for Students?

So, what does this mean for students facing campus misconduct proceedings or Title IX cases? Immediate evidence preservation is more important than ever. If someone sends an iMessage that proves or disproves something, screenshot the message right away showing the message’s date and timestamp. Or, video record the message on the spot. These low-tech approaches to evidence preservation may mean the difference between having an arrow in the quiver or not. In certain instances, while a forensic examination of a phone may recover some data, a user should never assume that forensics can recreate an edited or deleted conversation.

Fortunately, while these features may make parents’ heads spin, college students are accustomed to so-called ephemeral messaging applications like Snapchat and Signal that allow messages to have limited visibility. For example, generally, Snapchat servers automatically delete messages after 24-hours, while Signal allows users to decide how long messages exist. Even the platform WhatsApp allows users to delete messages before they’ve been read. So, this change is not so dramatic for students of any age.

Students Should Continue to Take Necessary Precautions

Messaging technology is constantly changing. Now, users can edit and modify text messages. While the ability to edit and recall messages is often a good thing, this isn’t always the case. As we have repeatedly stated in prior writings, students need to be mindful about what they say and read and think to capture messages that could have evidentiary value in misconduct cases. And, no matter what, the maxim “think before you text” should never be forgotten.

For further questions or clarifications regarding the context of this article, please contact KJK Student & Athlete Defense attorneys Susan Stone (SCS@kjk.com; 216.736.7220) or Kristina Supler (KWS@kjk.com; 216.736.7217).