Open Source Data for Criminal Investigations




Malone, Michael

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Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (LEMIT)


Criminal investigators operate in a world that has become more and more difficult to investigate criminal activity. Criminals become more adept at hiding their actions and often use social media and other open sources to further their criminal enterproises. Often criminals put information on the internet that incriminates them. Investigators should use this information contained in open sources to further their investigations. Investigators can use open source information to locate criminals in ways such as geotagged photographs posted to social media or other online location websites such as Been Verified or Pipl. In many cases investigators can tell where suspects were when criminal activity occurred. Smart phone GPS technology can assist investigators in identifying the location of suspected criminals at the time of the alleged offense. Investigators can use open source information to identify criminal organizations by identifying certain relationships among individuals that can lead to convictions for criminal conspiracy. Photographs, blog posts and the like can be introduced as evidence in trails. There are hurdles to clear such as the probative value of an "innocent" photograph or post that does not show blatant criminal activity. Probative value is defined as evidence which is sufficiently useful to prove something important in a trial ( Court cases specifically addressing social media are now coming to the forefront but have not kept pace with technological advances. There have been cases supporting the introduction of open-source data into court. Specifically, a Second Circuit case goes a long way towards helping law enforcement introducing open source evidence. Criminal investigators should utilize open sources to aid in their investigations.



Criminal Investigation, Criminal Evidence