The hot subject in investigations is using social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn for information on a target. There are numerous methods for searching and using information from online forums. Before figuring out how to get the information, an investigator should look at the reality of what Facebook is, and how valuable it could be.

A Facebook account in effect is the target doing surveillance on them self. They take their own pictures, record their own video, and document their own opinions and conversations and put it in a central location. Making it more valuable is the fact that the target is recording the most candid segments of their life. Where in a formal witness interview they will be guarded and careful about what they say, on Facebook the tendency is to be less inhibited.

As careful as a person might intend to be, Facebook is a seductive forum. The validation factor is hard to resist. Posting pictures, jokes, stories, or comments that are dramatic or interesting gets the most “Likes” and fuels the ego of the account holder. Unlike email where there is only one recipient, Facebook begs the user to let their hair down in the most extreme way. In addition, the accumulated history of posts and photos paints a picture of the personality of the person and how it may have changed over time.

While Facebook has fewer hard facts than discovery from other sources, it is the most valuable resource for truly understanding what is going on in the life of the person. An investigator with true analytic skills can turn superficial ramblings into deep intelligence.