How Social Media has Changed Private Investigation

Social media has changed the way the world works. From how we communicate with each other each day to how businesses operate. It’s become a part of everyday life so far that most people post everything about their lives without really thinking about it. On a personal level, this rarely causes complication, but for a private investigator, it opens up a whole new world of investigating.

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given never-before-seen visibility to a person’s life and activities. Checking in, posting photos, liking pages and updating statuses has seeming become an essential part of day-to-day activities. With smartphones, we’re constantly logged in (or can be at the touch of a button) to a completely public platform.

Social media investigations can shed a whole new light over a person’s behaviour and can reveal information that the user might prefer kept secret in the following ways:

Public profiles

When you set up a new social media profile (whether it’s Facebook Twitter, Instagram or something else) the page will not be private by default. While the companies that build the social platform are trying to help people maintain their privacy, most of the setting needs to be selected by the user.

This means that whether they realise or not, everything a person does on social media can be seen by anyone. This includes places they go, pages they like and people they are friends with, making it easy for a private investigator to get to know them, their routines, their friends, so they can monitor changes in behavior or find leads to investigate.

Catfishing/fake profiles

In some cases, a person’s online persona is completely different to their real one. When you set up a page you have to input a certain amount of detail, including name, email address, location etc. But there is no need to prove you are the person the profile relates to. It’s frighteningly easy to set up a fake profile and trick people into believing you are that person. This is known as catfishing – a term coined by its namesake, the popular movie and now MTV show.

Fake profiles are often created to hide something; often a relationship. Fake profiles are quite easy to find, and often the person being catfished will notice something is wrong. Often the person won’t want to talk on the phone, video chat or meet up.

There are several tricks in an investigators arsenal to expose a fake profile. Firstly, a simple reverse-image search can show you the source of the image. If it is a legitimate picture, there will be no results. You can also search their full name and analyse the results.


Anyone from your friends list can tag you in a post or picture. This included a date stamp and location, which can often give away more information than you might like.

Facebook also assigns tags to posts, which may happen without you knowing, known as geotagging.  Although this is an optional setting, you could inadvertently allow your social media provider to post your location at any time.

Social media is designed to bring people together, but often it can drive you apart. Private investigators can ethically find out a great deal of information just by looking at social media. This practice is completely legal and does not involve any hacking, rather just searching in the right places and knowing what to look for; spotting the signs.

Social media investigations are becoming more and more common. Get in touch today if you would like to discuss how this type of investigation can help you.