Every day we are asked to perform varying levels of Internet mining work on a subject of interest. Often times the goal is to gather any new information available on the Internet, other times we are asked to confirm or seek out information intended to validate or affirm something our client already has or knows, and sometimes we are asked to do both. Therefore, it’s imperative we define common Internet mining expectations.

Our most common request, by far, is to gather any new information available on the Internet.  Being cognizant of our clients Internet mining expectations, our goal in this regard is to paint an online “profile” picture of the subject of our investigation. This means an objective Internet mining investigation containing all available information we can find online, prepared in a detailed and accurate final report, which will pass the highest level of scrutiny of any court and/or administrative hearing.

I started putting together the workflow and investigative methodology for our Internet mining investigations about five years ago based on a very specific client need.  This client knew the Internet was changing the game and as such had very high Internet mining expectations.  Once I reviewed the process and the final product of that one assignment, I knew this would benefit almost every case we were working on and would be a nice compliment to our backgrounds department. In fact, this became such a popular and powerful investigative tool, we changed the name of the department to Data Support Services to more accurately reflect our Internet mining expectations and the new purpose of the department.

Staying within the lines

In the beginning, there were no issues and really, no rules. There wasn’t any criminal statute at the state or federal level that addressed how these investigations should be performed; therefore, the imagination and not the law became the limit that defined our clients Internet mining expectations. Having worked in the industry as long as I have, I was sure court decisions would be made soon and would sculpt the landscape for how these investigations would be performed. What I found was actually contrary to governmentally defined rules of procedure for how investigations could be executed per statute and licensing guidelines. Instead of the courts getting involved, they stepped back and allowed the Internet Service Providers (ISP) to define their own rules in the ‘Terms of Service‘ section of the ISPs site, which to use, everyone must agree to and acknowledge.  Now, our clients Internet mining expectations weren’t being thwarted by law, but by ISP company policy.

In reading the ‘Terms of Service‘ for many of the top social media sites, I realized, most of them used the same structure and verbiage to define what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Therefore, in order to protect your company and TIG Risk Services, we follow those guidelines as a failure to do so could put your organization and our company at risk and in-line for a civil lawsuit from one of those ISPs.

Software to the rescue

As a result, TIG Risk Services has designed, developed, and deployed the best Internet mining software I’ve seen to date. Most, if not all, other investigative agencies are still relatively antiquated in their process when it comes to these; however, no matter who you use and what the process is, it is critical you work together with your investigative vendor to prepare the best final report with the most accurate information possible for your claims file.  In other words, define your Internet mining expectations upfront.

Five tips you can employ that will assist you in defining your Internet mining expectations:

  1. Define acceptable privacy guidelines.  Your investigative vendor’s comfort level for violating Terms of Service or worse more direct and inappropriate privacy concerns, may not be in line with your organization’s mission, values, and overall Internet mining expectations.  If you don’t set the rules up front you take the chance of a disastrous ending to any assignment you seek their services for.
  2. How deep do they mine?  Internet mining conceptually is really no different the mining for minerals, the deeper and more broad of a search, the better the payday.  Make sure your investigative vendors have true methodology that defines what an Internet mining investigation is.  Having John and Jane arbitrarily surf the Internet is not the answer, a well-defined company directive is.
  3. Are Private Investigators working on or at least proofing your final reports?  If not, your final report may not be court ready in some jurisdictions.  Make sure the investigative vendor is taking the time and spending the money to get all employees working on your files properly licensed, this should be part of your Internet mining expectations.
  4. Make sure, from your investigative vendor, there is a Comprehensive Database Report run for every Internet mining assignment.  A comprehensive report from Lexis-Nexis, IRB, or another database provider can provide key indicators that will match your subject to an Internet profile.  Without this report run on each assignment, you will be giving up indicators such as, relatives, associates, maiden names, email addresses, phone numbers, previous addresses, etc.

Documentation.  In reality, the product of any investigation is a final report and invoice.  Are you comfortable with your investigative vendor’s final reports?  If not, there may be reason to worry.  Internet mining reports should at the very least contains a subject dossier, an investigative summary, and individual site captures.  The individual site captures should be able to withstand common rules of evidence in any hearing or court proceeding.  If you have a question as to what that means or with anything regarding your Internet mining expectations, feel free to email us at info@tig.us.