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The explosion of internet social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter has not only changed the way people communicate and build relationships, it also has the potential to reduce privacy and societal confidentiality norms and expectations which were once taken for granted regarding our private lives. This modification of privacy expectations is beneficial in a generation that is nomadic in nature as social networking provides excellent opportunities to keep in touch with friends and family who live in a world seemingly without borders.

From a criminal perspective, the risks associated with posting personal information and photos on social networking sites are based on the cyber integrity of the site being utilized. Regardless of the cyber security measures in place, there will always be those who will attempt to hack into networks, manipulate and steal personal information.  Organized crime is extremely adept at targeting social networking sites and potential crimes resulting from the theft of personal information range from identity theft, fraud, theft and even the most heinous of physical offences.

From a private investigative perspective, social networking is an excellent source of information as it provides opportunities to locate individuals, colleagues, friends, associates, assets and identify social habits. Additionally, networking information is becoming very beneficial in defending civil litigation claims. For example, a statement made during an examination for discovery which claims an accident victim cannot participate in various activities, or doesn’t enjoy life to the fullest since an accident, can sometimes be challenged based on information and photos posted online. With an estimated 350 million Facebook users worldwide, combined with Google’s incorporation of various Facebook data in their search engines, the potential for personal information data-mining opportunities has increased exponentially.

Recently, the Courts have tended to support the disclosure of information posted on social networking sites. A Superior Court of Ontario decision in 2009 (Leduc vs Roman) ordered that some selected information profiled on Facebook was admissible. Further, other Court rulings have suggested that an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy is not justified when dozens of photos and personal information are posted on a website, notwithstanding the fact that individuals have to be invited to view the content. In other words, a social networking entry is not a private diary.

The legal obtaining of social networking information can be problematic depending on the security options imposed by the registrant. Posing as a friend or back-dooring the site through the manipulation of an associate’s Facebook entry has legal and ethical implications. The attainment of such evidence would likely be deemed inadmissible in future civil proceedings. However, legal remedies can be attempted through the attainment of a court order to force the disclosure of Facebook accounts which, depending on the circumstances, could be very beneficial to insurance companies defending civil litigation claims.

The Investigative Research Group enjoys considerable experience and expertise in data-mining internet social networks. The corporation’s highly skilled and experienced group of former law enforcement experts and technicians can be deployed to proactively conduct effective and discreet investigations to take advantage of the society’s movement to open source and internet social networking sites. 

Additionally, the Investigative Research Group is trained and certified in Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and intelligence collection management which involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce intelligence.