Storyful’s News Intelligence Investigative Journalist, Kelly Jones talks Stalk Scan for private investigations
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
Kelly Jones is based out West where, as Denver and Colorado Springs area residents already know, snow season runs till June. Add reliable wi-fi and a Wyoming landscape view she boasts, "would make others jealous' and you’ve got a day in the life of a news intelligence investigative journalist.
With viral memes as myriad as hailstorms crossing the western plains in June, the demand for digital forensic investigation expertise is higher than the Platte River during a flash flood. Her job, like the jobs of many private detectives and legal investigators is necessitated by myriad misinformation online.
Kelly Jones' employer is Storyful, a New York based business to business subscription service that functions as the ancillary arm of newsrooms. Their Storyful subscriptions enable newsrooms to avoid wasting the time and energy of their already overtasked and quickly diminishing newsroom staffs in the predatory landscape of hedge fund ownership.
If you follow visual news media, even peripherally, chances are you've come across some of the images or videos that Jones and/or her Storyful colleagues have painstakingly drilled down to the bedrock in order to identify the prototype. Close social media contacts such as family members can then be contacted and asked to confirm the veracity of a viral image or video. Once verified, the images are released to newsroom subscribers who publish them in breaking stories worldwide.
After attending her hands-on photo and video verification seminar at an APME (Associated Press Media Editors) sponsored News Train event for journalists in Aurora, Colorado I had the opportunity to ask Jones the question I always hear private investigators and process servers asking all the time regarding social media audits and peoplefinding searches: can private investigators surreptitiously use social media platforms like Facebook to obtain evidence and information without compromising the results of their investigation? In other words, can you digitally spy on someone without getting caught?
“I can’t see whose looking at my Facebook page or my Twitter account but I can see who follows me or friends me," Jones said when I asked if it is possible to research suspects or persons of interest on Facebook without leaving a digital footprint or inadvertently dropping breadcrumbs that could alert someone to the fact that he or she is being monitored for future litigation purposes?
Jones recommends private detectives use Stalk Scan. Stalk Scan is an open source tool for extracting publicly available information from a Facebook profile. The platform makes the monitoring process faster and more digestible for private eyes researching suspects and/or persons of interest. Plus, it is free and does not require a premium subscription. Anyone with a computer and internet has access. A downside, as she points out, is it “only works if the person has everything public.”
If someone posts a photo near a high profile area and you are trying to locate them, she recommends a reverse image search using Google after honing in on something in the background., like a building, bridge or other distinct landmark.
Crowdtangle, another tool Jones recommends, shows public pages and enables users to create customized lists. Stalk Scan however seem to be the indispensable one for PIs and process servers. “I would use Stalk Scan if I’m doing a social profile,” Jones says adding if she was investigating an accident she would use Google search or Google maps to figure out where surrounding building are and from there, contact those building to try and obtain footage.
My own, cursory experiment with Crowdtangle revealed more information that I thought was publicly available, including the summer events that I r.s.v.p.'d to on Facebook. Were a process server or private investigator wish to track me down they could go on Stalkscan and obtain a relatively reliable set of locations and times I could be found throughout the summer using information I posted on pages I thought only made this kind of information available to friends or to other people who liked that particular page.
It is relatively simple and straightforward however if you need a tutorial I recommend the Stalk Scan explainer video I've embedded below Please like, reshare and hit me up on social media to let me know how your stalkscanning goes!
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