Social Media and Investigations
Joseph Goldstein’s March 3rd article in The New York Times, “In Social Media Postings, a Trove for Investigators”, is an interesting discussion of real life examples of Facebook and other social media helping criminal investigators move a case forward.
Yet as the article notes, social media research is not without weakness. While looking at someone’s Facebook or LinkedIn profiles (and related relationships) can shorten an investigator’s research time, it can also overload the investigator with information, some of it potentially misleading.
Unlike the investigations cited in the Times article, K2 investigations focus less on questions of guilt or innocence and more on risk – i.e. whether a subject is safe to do business with, represents him or herself honestly, or has risky relationships. Thoroughly understanding risk means more than merely confirming the existence of a relationship or figuring out where someone was at a certain time.
Whether we are charged with determining how capable an executive is, or understanding the relationship between a trader and a public company, or evaluating the principal of a startup, we have to remember that subject’s online profile and social connections may be compelling and informative, but they are still the product of subjective, user-generated content. It takes thorough investigation and objective analysis to understand the frequency, quality and meaning of a subject’s online interactions and the risks they reveal.