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By Peter Oakes

Jul 25th, 2019

Changes to social media access - the impact on investigations.

Your intelligence teams may have noticed changes in their ability to access information from profiles on Facebook; inevitably this will impact on investigations and potentially the ability of defendants to identify dishonest claims.

The Changes

The changes primarily affect the use of a Facebook search tool, known as “Graph Search”. A popular free to use site hosted a set of tools which enabled analysts to carry out automated searches quickly and simply, with only the inclusion of a user’s unique ID number. Specifically, these tools allowed images, comments, or posts made by a data subject to and from other accounts to be viewed. However, this site had suffered attacks and legal threats, which has ultimately lead to its shutdown.

Further sites depending on the Graph Search have also become obsolete due to its removal. Currently there is no official statement from Facebook regarding these changes. Practitioners have previously faced temporary downtime in the use of these tools but this time the downtime appears to be more permanent.

Current Positions

As a result of these recent changes many intelligence analysts and investigators will suffer a reduced ability to identify vital OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) information pertaining to data subjects; certainly all the more if those analysts are without the knowledge to conduct effective manual searches.

In the context of litigation and fraud, inadequate social media analysis may lead to the failure to identify:

Contradictory evidence regarding the alleged prognosis or restriction from an injury
Evidence of a data subject or company/business not incurring losses as alleged
Connections between parties involved in an incident.

Without these tools and the information they assist in obtaining a large number of analysts and firms will be hampered to defend claims brought about which appear to be fraudulent or dishonest.

Practical Example

In one recent case, an EL/PL matter concerned a claimant injured so badly he claimed to be unable to walk for 6 months. The claimant was in his 60s; typical of the claimant’s age demographic he was not active on Facebook (or social media in general). OSINT tools were able to identify content regarding the data subject from various other accounts.

Without OSINT tools or a detailed working knowledge of how to search social media manually crucial information will not be found – in this case the data subject was tagged or commented on a charity 10km walk he partook in 2 months post-accident; directly contradicting his own account.

Experienced analysts still have the ability to unearth otherwise hidden data and intelligence but without the use of these tools it certainly makes the investigations more complex. The changes implemented at Facebook make it crucial that OSINT searches are undertaken by experienced analysts with the ability to unearth otherwise hidden data and intelligence.

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