How to investigate people through social networks

Few cyberspace detectives pay attention to the usage patterns of social networks, which can reveal deep desires, moods, etc. The social network algorithm 1 does. But how to take advantage of it when investigating a person?

When investigating a person using social networks, it is necessary to also collect usage information, and this can be done by following them with an isolated account. With this method, the algorithm will recommend things related to their interests, their mood, etc., things that the person has not even published.

Getting the IP address and technical data2 of the person is quite easy: just guide them to a URL on a server that you have, and to do this you have to make them click on a link or load an image or video that you have for that purpose, which is not difficult if you know their interests. If we have their email, we can use a web beacon (i.e. an invisible image).

If we want to get more information, we have to get the HTTP requests of the person under investigation. Sometimes data can be bought from Internet providers or the deep web, sometimes government security forces or intelligence agencies have access to this data. Also, social engineering could be used in the real world, buying data from sites the person uses to get their real phone number, etc.

The only way to protect yourself from abusive social networking sites and access to your information by hackers, governments, etc., is not to use them. You could reduce the risks by using them in a limited way: without JavaScript (which many abusive social networks do not allow), through Tor, only posting or only reading, not clicking on posts that catch your attention, not saying what you like, always spending the same amount of time on each post so as not to show a preference for any of them (which is complicated), etc.

In short, it is easy to investigate people who are not users, but are used, as they are the product of companies that commercialise their lives, their desires, their moods, etc. Technological sovereignty can be increased by having your own website, instead of relying on a social network, or by using a free social network that respects users' privacy.

  1. On the other hand, there are some social networks such as Mastodon that do not have a recommendation algorithm and do not collect huge amounts of user data. 

  2. Where you access the Internet from, what device you use, what languages you have configured, what browser and operating system versions you use, etc.