Introduction to Social Media Investigation

Posted on by Ben Rothke

Had you Googled social media investigation a decade ago, you would have gotten a handful of responses. Today, it has become a key part of law enforcement, family law and more.

Social media played predominantly in the terrible murder last week of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Law enforcement poured over the social media profiles of the perpetrator. 

In Introduction to Social Media Investigation (Syngress 978-0128016565), author Jennifer Golbeck PhD has written a guide that shows how you can use the most popular social media channels as part of an investigation.


While there are thousands of social media channels, the book focuses on the largest of them, namely: Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram and YouTube.  For each of the channels, Golbeck provides a number of case studies and real world examples of how to perform an investigation.

The book provides a basic approach to gleaning information from each of these channels. For most investigators, the reconnaissance work will not be so difficult given the amount of information people share on social media sites.

The book is an introduction, and the author herself notes that most of the investigation stories detailed in the book are relatively simple. Namely that the target uses social media and the investigator collects the information.  If it’s a popular site like Facebook or Twitter, and the person being investigated is somewhat chatty (which is often the case on these channels), the investigators job is not that difficult.

But many investigations are much more complex and will require a deeper and more thorough approach.  The book touches on that, but is primarily based on the more simple investigations. There are other tools that can be used in an investigation, such as reverse image searches, Social Searcher and more.

Those looking for an introductory text on the topic, such as information security professionals, those in law enforcement, investigative journalists and more will find Introduction to Social Media Investigation a handy guide in which to start their investigative work.

Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Manager, Tapad

Security Strategy & Architecture

data security forensics & e-discovery social networking

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