The PI & OSINT

Finding and verifying social media content is becoming a greater concern for private investigators (PIs) and their clients. Unfortunately, most PIs do not possess the skills and resources to do this beyond the most rudimentary level.

Some investigation companies will try to build an in-house operation. They will buy technology, or spend money on subscriptions to tools that claim to do the work with a click of a button. This usually proves to be a costly expedition into the unknown that ends in failure. The purchased tools do not live up to their claims or clients usually want something the purchased tools and subscriptions don’t deliver.

Some investigation companies will send staff to courses to learn about sources. These are billed as Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) courses. Unfortunately, the OSINT concept usually misses the “intelligence” part, and it is more about gathering raw information than producing usable investigative reporting.

The ‘intelligence’ part is the expensive part. It involves time to conduct the analysis and many hours of learning to present the analysis along with the sources and methods reporting.

Producing a report that goes beyond the OSINT concept is not a secretarial task. Once you go beyond the popular OSINT concept, you start doing Investigative Internet Research (IIR).

Why You Can’t Dictate an IIR Report

Proper IIR reporting does not rely on haphazard Internet searches and does not dump a disorganised load of raw data from the Internet into a client’s inbox. Reports summarize then analyse the collected data and then explain the sources and methods used to collect data.

The researcher must understand how to use Word and other software because he cannot dictate IIR reports. A dicta-typist cannot produce an IIR report for the following four reasons:

  1. The person transcribing the dictation will not place images, graphs, and video clips properly yet, a picture, screenshot or video is worth a thousand words.
  2. There is no efficiency at all in dictating a URL and plenty of mistakes would result.
  3. Some Web site names are hard to pronounce and would lead to misspelling (although you might spell them out, there is still a risk).
  4. Whoever writes the report must have all the collected material at hand in order to create footnotes and appendices.

Now you know why the person doing the IIR must also prepare the report.

In the next few articles I will describe the tools and techniques that actually work, but there is no magic button that does the analysis for you.