Published on: June 15, 2022
Whether you are someone who conducts regulatory investigations, workplace investigations, fraud investigations, or some other kind of investigation, it is likely that technology has greatly impacted the way you do your work. Twenty years ago, evidence might have primarily come in the form of interviews and written notes, but now in 2022 we are likely to see text messages, emails and social media postings added into the mix. If you have the title “investigator,” it’s important to remember that part of your job is to investigate. While this might seem obvious, many investigators see themselves as decision makers, passively accepting evidence from the parties and using that evidence to make findings. Investigators have a duty not only to consider evidence that is given to them, but also to authenticate that evidence to the best of their ability, and to access other information that is readily at their disposal, including information on the internet.
Below are some examples of scenarios where the internet could be used as a useful tool in the investigator’s toolkit.
1. The investigator is investigating an allegation that Employee A hired a close friend to work at XCorp in violation of XCorp’s Conflict of Interest Policy. Employee A denies that the individual they hired is a close friend, stating that they “hardly know them.”
What the investigator can do: This is a case where lax social media privacy settings could be the investigator’s best friend. Assuming that Employee A and/or the person they hired have publicly available information on their Facebook or Instagram pages, it may be easy to see if they are connected on social media, how many common friends they have, if they have attended common events, and if there are pictures of them together. Any information discovered would, of course, need to be put to Employee A for response.
2. The Investigator is investigating an allegation that Employee B has engaged in time theft by leaving work early every day for several years. Employee B insists that their former supervisor (who has moved out of country and is not available for an interview) told them they could leave early if they worked through lunch, and that there used to be a policy on the company website that stated this. Unfortunately, the company website was updated two years ago, and there is no record of the policy.
What the investigator can do: Although the website has been updated, often older versions of websites remain archived and can still be accessed using various tools that cache data. The investigator could search for an archived version of the company’s website to determine if Employee B is being truthful about the former policy.
3. The Investigator is investigating an allegation that Employee C punched their co-worker in the shoulder during an altercation at work. Employee C denies touching the complainant, and there were no witnesses. The complainant provides a picture of a large bruise, which they say was the result of the punch. Because the complainant did not meet with the investigator until six weeks after the incident, there is no evidence on their body of the bruise.
What the investigator can do: In order to attempt to authenticate the picture, the investigator could try running a reverse-image search to see if the picture exists elsewhere on the internet; if it does, it is possible the complainant copied the image. While this can be done through Google, there are also more obscure reverse-search tools that may reveal information that Google misses.
There are a multitude of internet tools that can help investigators conduct thorough investigations. If you would like more information on these tools and how they can improve your investigations, consider attending our Two-Day How to Use the Internet as an Investigative and Research Tool courses.