It is safe to assume that all private investigations practitioners are familiar with but not necessarily adept in the practice of the OSINT (open source intelligence) concept i.e. the legally and freely available access – if one has developed the curiosity and technical skills required – to a wide variety of local and/or international information sources which have become increasingly digitised and often made available on subscription.
OSINT has been traditionally used, in conjunction with other forms of information, to support a wide variety of both covert and overt due diligence, security, consumer and commercial intelligence related investigations. However, the number of such sources and the difficulties of keeping pace with their availability and then properly using them and the specific information available have grown exponentially (Google, Internet, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, business web sites etc.). This problem has occurred over the last decade or so due to the sophistication, development and growth in related information sourcing, sharing and storage technologies.
A concurrent trend has been the demand by PI clients, legal firms, credit granters and many others – including governments for security and anti-terrorism reasons – for less generalised and more accurate, specific, nuanced and predictive information to support their decision-making processes.
A further obvious trend has been the retaliatory steps taken by authorities and businesses, via consumer privacy, data and information protection legislation and other data base security and anti-cybercrime measures, to prevent unauthorised access to such sources. This has occurred because of the abuse of access to OSINT, often for criminal or industrial espionage purposes e.g. stolen identifications, product and financial information, and the requirement, for business and contractual reasons, to protect against the misuse of shared data and information.
Simultaneous access to a vast array of OSINT sources has only become possible due to the development of electronically driven search engine software programs with variable drill down capacities which, when tasked, allow for the search and retrieval of specifically or generally requested information or data.
It is therefore arguable that any private investigations practitioner wishing to keep abreast of these trends, must understand and become adept with modern OSINT trends and requirements or run the risk of becoming obsolete.
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