Since the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web most private investigators have embraced the fantastic array of information and inter-connectivity that has become available – in fact the good old: search engines are probably our primary source of up to date intelligence and data.
Information of this type is: “Open source”.
First of all, “Open source information”, is available to everyone, so there is no issue with breeches of privacy or data protection issues, so, if you are investigating, for example, a particular person with an unusual name, you might type that name, plus the area, into a search engine and you will then read through the results, if any of the information returned corroborates with information that that you have gleaned from other sources – then you are well underway in terms of attaining the previously agreed objective(s) of your enquiry.
We complete: “Cybercrime”, type investigation enquiries, mainly when goods and services purchased over the net go, “Astray”. We track and trace the trail to the Internet Service Providers, but, more often than not, despite the relevant paper request for disclosure, we find indifference and often a, “Brick wall” – effectively the trail goes, “Cold”…. the information will be released to Law Enforcement Agencies but the cases in question are low level harassment or e-crime of such small value that they are of no actual interest to the Police Cyber Crime Units or similar.
Our successes come when we become, “Creative”, following a full appraisal and risk assessment of any “Covert” activity that we assess as practicable, justified and necessary…
For example, we used a, “Constructed”, e-bay buyer / seller profile on one occasion to buy some good that were identified as stolen. Our rational was that we needed to keep our actual identity under wraps as there were clear, “Health and Safety” and “Compromise”, issues if our investigators true name and address was made known. The problem with the completion of this enquiry was that the, “Stolen items”, had been sold and only appeared in the sellers history. We need to buy the item they were currently advertising….as we had to, “Built up confidence”. We continued to pose as a buyer, who was also interested in those….items, “In your history, that you have got good feedback on”…After collecting the first purchase from the sellers address we were able to make further purchases….Following our completed report with the evidence obtained, the client brought in the Police and the thieves were caught, “Red handed” and arrested on the basis of the evidence we had reported.
Proportionality and a code of ethics is important, especially, if you stray beyond interrogating internet search engine results – and always remember where to draw that, “Line”.