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Collections & Investigations

How to Use Social Media for Investigations


Social media is currently a fundamental part of most people’s lives. Young and older people alike have signed up for various social media pages, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Very few people are keen to enable privacy settings on their social media pages. Consequently, a lot of information is readily available to investigators. Social media is very resourceful for investigators looking to gather intelligence or evidence useful in specific investigations.

Here is how you can use social media for investigations.

Keep your identity hidden.

Keeping your identity hidden is important when using social media for investigations. If you don’t stay anonymous, the subject may figure out that they are under investigation. Anonymity will ensure that you don’t jeopardize the investigation.

There are several ways you can stay anonymous on social media pages. The first and most obvious way is creating a fake profile. If you decide to create a fake profile, don’t use another person’s personal information. This includes photos. Impersonation is unethical, and it is also illegal in some states.

Consider the legal implications.

If you want to create a social media account specifically to collect social media data for investigations, check the terms of service of the social media network. Additionally, you should check the laws governing social media in the state you are in.

For instance, in California, impersonating someone online is a criminal offense. Anyone who impersonates someone else on social networking sites without their consent is guilty of a misdemeanor. Therefore, you shouldn’t use someone else’s information when creating a fake profile for your investigations.

Precedents on the admissibility of evidence gathered on social media vary depending on the state and industry. For example, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act allow investigators to use pretexting to get debtor’s personal information. However, investigators are encouraged to use other means to obtain the information.

Start with a simple preliminary search.

If you want to gather social media data on a subject for an investigation, start with a preliminary search. You can use a search engine like Google to search for the subject’s name, nickname, phone number, or e-mail address. If you only have the subject’s photo at your disposal, you can use the Google reverse image search.

From the preliminary search, you can get information on the subject’s social media information, and then you can log into the social media network to gather more information.

Preserve any evidence you gather.

Once you get the investigation information you need from social media, you must preserve it. Note that information on social media can easily disappear, so you should preserve evidence as soon as you get it.

There are three simple ways you can preserve social media evidence: screen capture, Facebook history, and screencast.

The simplest and most efficient method is screen capture since you capture your computer’s screen when you stumble on evidence. Facebook also allows users to download their history. Therefore, you can download the history and create a copy of the evidence you gathered for your investigation. You can also use screencasts to capture images and words on social media.

Ensure the evidence you have gathered is authentic.

Authenticating the evidence you get from social media for an investigation is very important. You can do this by;

  • Using the IP address to verify who posted the content on social media. Note that you may need a witness to corroborate such evidence.
  • When preserving social media evidence, ensure that you capture the date and time when you gathered the evidence. This would come in handy in proving the authenticity of the social media evidence you preserved.
  • Get a witness to swear an affidavit attesting your findings on the social media networks.

The experts at Enformion have mastered the art of obtaining crucial data from social media. If you need to get social media information that would help with your investigations, contact us today to start your free trial.

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