Social Media and Private Investigations: Public Data Exploitation?

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Anyone who?s done something that they are in trouble for has gone to great lengths to hide their whereabouts, activities, accomplices, and other important data such as their assets and properties. It is not a secret that uncovering these bits of information can be a challenge even for the most seasoned private investigators. Aren?t you glad most people in developed countries now have social media?

The Glaring Statistics

In the last 15 years, the use of social media has ushered in the biggest societal change in our recent history. In Facebook, over a billion active users update their profiles each month. The Pew Research says that social media use in the U.S. alone has shot up 356% as compared to 10 years ago. Currently, 90% of individuals aged 18 to 29 use social media and seniors are not to be left behind, with 35% of those who are over 65 years old having at least one social media account, bringing social media use in their demographics up 3x from 2010.

These days, almost every aspect of human interaction has some sort of internet footprint. Things have certainly changed in the way we connect with other people and do business with one another. How has this change affected the field of Private Investigation?

Social Media and Private Investigation

Just a few years ago, data that can be accessed at the click of a button now could have taken a private investigator hours upon hours of detailed investigation. Now, not only are a lot of information easier to access, they?re often time-stamped as well! Some are even sporting the location where a post originated or got posted, thus saving anyone doing some investigative work plenty of time.

The Richmond Journal of Law?s Justin P. Murphy says that social media has a significant effect on government litigation and investigation because it factors into a lot of cases. Let?s not forget that social media can provide evidence through status updates, photos, location, and messages.

Solving Cases, One Social Media Post at A Time

One recent case of private investigators getting help from publicly available information on social media (in the form of a photo) is the case of law-runaway John McAfee (yes, of the McAfee antivirus company) who was hiding from the law following investigation of a neighbour?s murder a few years ago. He?d been hiding from authorities but got discovered through a publicly published photo of him that was embedded with GPS metadata which gave up his exact location in Guatemala.

Sounds amazing? Yes, it is!

Social media has truly changed a huge part of our current society. We can no longer say that a full investigation of a business or an individual has been completed unless the full power of the publicly available information online has been harnessed for it. Individuals and companies can try to evade or hide the truth all they want, be it on paper or in person; however, it is the lure of the social media that almost always catches them bragging or sharing to their family, neighbours, and friends, and thus unwittingly exposing themselves to private investigators.

Need some private investigator help? Contact your Toronto private investigators today!


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Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. is pleased to announce the addition of Don Panchuk (BA MA CFE CRM) to our Corporate Investigations Division. Don served for 31 years in the RCMP, retiring as the Superintendent in Charge of the Integrated Market Enforcement Team in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).