Knowing what claimants, plaintiffs or defendants are doing during the course of their days can be very helpful during litigation. While Social Media Networking Investigations may not take the place of surveillance, it can certainly supplement it. Some people are prolific Social Networkers and are easy pickings for saavy private investigators. Interestingly enough”Baby Boomers” are among the most avid social media users with and estimated 82% utilizing social networks to connect with family and friends. They are also among the most litigious demographic.
Well, that should make them fairly simple to find online, right? Not so fast! Many people take their online privacy seriously and filter who can access their activities online. There are also people who are not comfortable using computers or any social networking websites, so searching for them becomes futile. What to do? At Sun State we recommend searching for their known relatives, learning who their Friends and associates are, learning who their employers are so that we can begin searching for the subject on their pages as well. Certainly, it is a more time consuming and expensive effort, but one picture of your subject posted by his child of them playing Tennis, or a picture of the subject playing Volleyball at the Company Picnic could be worth more than a thousand words, or huge monetary settlements or Jury Awards.
Finally, just screen-capturing a picture or posting from a social network page is not enough to insure admissibility as evidence at a trial. The investigator must take certain steps to authenticate and preserve the information. What if the person has deleted the picture, posting or deleted the entire account? At Sun State we follow best practices by accurately portraying what is seen on the screen at the time and printing a professional-looking hard copy; by documenting the Metadata which will validate that the webpage actually existed online at the time by documenting the timestamp, such as the URL, IP address, date and time; and insuring a Digital chain of custody while removing ourselves from the evidence by using a trusted, third-party webpage capture tool do the work.