5 Social Media Tips for Investigations

Social media sites can often be a treasure trove of information during a police investigation. The amount of information people freely share on social media platforms these days can be amazing. This is of course true for suspects in your investigations as well. Many officers are familiar with the basic workings of some of the major social networking sites such as Facebook, but they may not realize all of the ins and outs of these sites.

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Social media sites are a treasure trove of information. Being tech savvy is a must for contemporary detective work. (Flicker)

Here are five tips that may help.

  1. Do not use your personal social media accounts to research suspects. Ever been on Facebook and noticed when it suggests “friends” you should add? Some may seem obvious, maybe you have mutual friends. Others may make you wonder why Facebook is suggesting that person. Chances are that person may have attempted to look at your profile. If you log into your personal account and then go to a suspect’s profile, Facebook will notice your interest and suggest to your suspect that they should add you as a “friend.” LinkedIn will outright send them a notification that you viewed their page. It’s best to create a fake or “undercover” profile for your social media platforms if you intend to look at your suspect’s page.
  2. Save any images you find. Don’t assume that when you find something on a website that it will be there when you log back onto it later. Most computers have the “Snipping Tool” installed with Windows and you can use it to easily save an image of what is on your computer screen. Alternatively you can press the “Print Screen” button on your keyboard and then open Microsoft Paint. Once you open Paint, simply click on “Paste” or press “Ctrl + V” and the saved image will appear. You can then save that file.
  3. A more advanced method of saving images is to install a browser extension for your internet browser. If you are using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox you can install the extension “Fireshot.” Once this is installed you will notice a new button has been installed on your browser. By simply clicking on the button it will capture an image of whatever is on your screen. It will even automatically scroll down to capture an image of the entire page you are viewing, even when only part of it is visible on your screen.
  4. To save any videos you come across you can download browser extension “Video DownloadHelper.” This extension also works for Chrome and Firefox. Much like “Fireshot,” a new button will appear on you browser and you can simply click on it to download and save any videos that are playing on your screen.
  5. Do not be afraid to go straight to the source.   A quick search on any internet search engine and you can find most law enforcement guides for each social network. These will explain how to submit a preservation requests or search warrants for whatever content you want saved as evidence.

Blaine Phillips is a Senior Agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and is currently assigned to the Human Trafficking Unit. Agent Phillips has worked in law enforcement for 14 years, including work as a detention officer at the Stillwater Police Department (OK) and a patrol officer at the Estes Park Police Department (CO). He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Ashford University, majoring in Social and Criminal Justice and with a minor in Public Administration. He then completed a Master’s of Science at Colorado State University, majoring in Organizational Leadership. You can contact him at [email protected]

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