Privacy is something we all value, but some value their privacy more than others. Private conversations that were had behind closed doors, are now being shared with friends and family on a plethora of social networks. As Facebook and Twitter continue to charge into the openness of the web, a person’s “private” posts and conversations leak out to the general public’s prying eyes.
Social media networks are a relatively new concept. Young people, while experienced with privacy and technology trends, are relatively inexperienced when it comes to the dangers of sharing intimate matters. They’re going after the thrill of going viral. Adults are not necessarily going after viral trends, but they are relatively inexperienced in how technology works, and their posts end up leaking to the general public. Add a lack of self-control, and you have a feast of public communication in all its multimedia glory, that sometimes makes you feel like a peeping tom.
This exposure, for lack of better terms, is great for attorneys, insurance companies, and employers who are trying to keep tabs on a subject, claimant, or employee. Facebook and Instagram both introduced Live TV features… and people ate it up!
Users are going live on Facebook while committing crimes, testifying to crimes, or planning crimes. Everything from deadly car crashes, to shootings, to home burglaries. Some people live stream theft, workplace violence, and even insurance fraud schemes.
Spouses use Facebook posts against each other in court to gain custody of their children. Insurance companies use Facebook posts to track down claimants and prove a claimant has a second job or is violating their injury restrictions. Attorneys use Facebook to document hidden assets or find evidence that a subject is exaggerating pain and suffering claims.
Long story short – Facebook is becoming a great place to find court victory defining evidence. But just because it’s out in the open, it doesn’t mean that the court system will accept it.
There is a process, tools, and rules that you must follow in order to ensure the data is accepted. It starts by tracking the data down.
The Early Stages of Detective Work
You can’t collect data if you can’t find the data to begin with. There is a plethora of companies out there that sell social media data leads. They point you in the right direction. These tools run a subject’s name, phone number, email address, usernames, and more to track down social networks that belong to your subject.
A skill private investigator can, not only track these accounts down, but also gain privilege to see posts reserved to friends or family members. We are NOT talking about hacking accounts – that’s against the law. We’re talking about following a subject or requesting access to private information from a subject. Some people are often careless enough to oblige. We’re also talking about tracking down forgotten social media profiles, or profiles that automatically update across platforms.
Some people – to save them time – share a post on Facebook that automatically gets shared on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. The subject may erase the post from one account but leave their post in another account.
A private investigator can track these accounts down on your behalf. Once the account has been located, an investigator can monitor and gather data on your behalf.
Collect Data Fast and Often
A quick search on Google on “I was involved in an accident, and think I have a case, what should I do?” will land you with pages upon pages of people passing out the same advice – “Erase your Facebook. Call a Lawyer. Don’t talk to strangers.” In other words – burn everything!
What this means for us, is that we need to collect and gather data as quickly as possible and as often as possible. A simple “copy paste” is not good enough. In the eyes of an attorney, what’s stopping you from photoshopping or manipulating content?
Use Metadata Extraction Tools
When you collect data from social networks, a copy and paste from your computer screen is not enough. Unbeknownst to many people, photographs, videos, audio files, and even website pages, collect and store metadata. This data includes information about what you’re seeing. Example: On a Photograph – where was it taken? At what time? Under what conditions? With what device? Etc.
There are many cases on the web where Judges dismiss evidence based on Metadata. As an example of one case from 2018: A plaintiff said that her house was destroyed after a warrantless search of her home in 2014. She provided several photos to the court that she claimed were taken “several days after the incident.” The judge dismissed the case after they found, through metadata, that 67 of the 70 photographs given to the court had been taken in 2016, which was two years after the incident and immediately before the plaintiff provided them to her counsel – source.
Metadata is important when it comes to gathering social media evidence. It contains information that is very difficult to manipulate or erase. When we gather images, videos, or information from social networks, we always collect metadata to show the court system that the information was not manipulated in any way shape or form.
We also have tools that store copies of the information on private servers in case the subject of our investigation erases the data from social media platforms.
If you’re going take legal action against an employee, subject, or claimant, and you’re looking for a private investigator to gather this data on your behalf, contact our team and request a case evaluation. Every state is going to have different laws and procedures, we’ll ensure your data is collected within the confines of the law.