The term “big data” is everywhere today. Almost everything we do can be captured in some way, shape or form. Retailers can now determine when a woman is pregnant by using big data. And what does all this mean to security, investigative and human resource professionals? Through the use of open source web and social media data, we are able to identify potential risks and threats. Imagine if you were able to predict if workplace violence is likely to occur. Past violent or aggressive behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour. Using digital surveillance, you are able to monitor a person’s behaviour. In the past, we had to wait to see if an event would occur and later read about it in the news that the individual had posted information online that indicated a strong possibility of violent behaviour. Threats, photos of weapons and rants about injustice are quite typical. I recently worked with a client that had experienced a significant increase in workers’ compensation claims. The client was uneasy about traditional surveillance as a first step. We selected two test cases. In the first case, not much was found. In the second, we hit the jackpot. The individual in question was deemed totally disabled. By harvesting social media data and using key words, we determined that he had left the country via Toronto Pearson Airport and had flown to New York. While in New York, numerous photos and information were posted about the individual’s vacation. In one instance, he described climbing a fire escape in great detail. Needless to say, the Human Resources team was able to use the information in dealing with this person.
As an investigator, imagine if you could capture and understand when your stores are being targeted and by whom. Rather then spending money on loss prevention resources during times of low likelihood of a crime, you could now target peak hours.
Law enforcement groups have commented that they need to do more with the web and social media. Attacks on police in New York, as wells as the soldiers in Canada have all revealed that the violent indicators were present prior to the actual crimes.
Harvesting data from the web and digital surveillance are becoming an important tool. The key is to be able to harvest data in an automated way and receive the data so it can be understood. Drinking from a fire hose tends to be difficult.
The good news is now you can. If you wish to learn more, please send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org