Contributor: Stephanie Fikisz
The growing popularity in social media means that more people than ever are becoming active online. About 90% of Americans have and actively use social media accounts to keep in touch with friends, family, and associates and to share their daily thoughts and activities. According to a 2023 survey, on average Americans actively post to 8.5 different social media platforms. An abundance of information is available on the internet; but capturing it requires both timeliness and skill.
No Time Like the Present
Early searching can be the difference between finding evidence online and losing it forever. Once a subject is aware that their social media or online interactions could be used as evidence, he or she will often add obstacles to viewing profile content and connections. Online profiles that are deleted or made private are not viewable online and therefore, evidence cannot be collected or preserved. Deleted profiles are usually gone forever, and private profiles require additional paperwork and judicial rulings to grant access – a long and arduous process. Acting right away can ensure that you collect and preserve the most important evidence without tipping off your subject or violating ethical evidence collection rules.
Searching for evidence online requires skills and software. Simply typing a name into the search bar of a social media platform like Facebook is not only inefficient but also dangerous. The investigator can accidentally reveal his or her identity to the subject or unethically interact with the subject making the investigator susceptible to data breaches and penalties for unlawful evidence collection. Some subjects even hide their identity by using an alias or post from an online group forum making discovery difficult especially without training and proper tools.
To find subjects and evidence, our analysts are skilled at collecting scope-driven information from social media profiles, search engines, and the deep web. Our analysts have been trained to discover subjects, define their connections to other social media users, find public records, and search the deep web securely and efficiently. The application of these techniques coupled with our proprietary software makes SMI Aware a trusted open-source intelligence service.
The How and Why
Evidence collection requires ethical considerations. Like physical evidence, open-source intelligence requires secure tools, accurate tracking, and ethical compliance. Without proper care and attention to how online evidence is collected, it may not be defensible in court. Involving SMI Aware early in the discovery process ensures sensitive information is treated with the utmost care, investigations follow a consistent, repeatable process, and evidence is obtained and secured in compliance with federal rules of evidence. How we collect and preserve evidence is as important as why.
Start investigating today! Contact SMI Aware for information about how you can get started.