Qualifying An Expert Using Open Source Information

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” – Samuel Johnson

Those that have heard me speak on electronic forensics know well the distinction that I make between data forensics and information forensics (“inforensics“).  The distinction is very clear:  data is a stream of unevaluated symbols, and information is the point at which the symbols become useful.

The inforensics approach also encompasses the use of relevant information and evidence that extends beyond the hard drive and can be used even when there is no hard drive or direct electronic platform available.

Take for example researching experts.  Using “open source information (OSI)”, sometimes referred to as “Publicly Sourced Information”, one can research a retained or opposing expert very effectively.

What Are Your Sources?

Google is a great place to start, and for purposes of this post we will focus primarily on Google – although the attachments to this post include other resources that you may explore as well.  There is definitely “life after Google” and you should explore it.  Possible research sources can include:

  • Newsgroups
  • Social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIN, etc.)
  • Blogs
  • Online news resources
  • Registration databases (websites, public records, etc.)

What Types of Information Are Out There?

In general you will be working with two main categories of information on the web:

  • Indexed Information.  This is information that has been picked up, searched and indexed by a search engine.
  • “Deep Web” or “Dark Web”.  This sounds mysterious, but really just means information that is usually in a database and has not been indexed by a search engine.  The location of a particular database can be found using a search engine, but the information contained within the database is usually accessed directly via the site that provides it, not a search engine.

Registration databases tend to fall into the”Deep Web” category, whereas many newsgroups can be searched directly through Google or a search engine.

What to Look For?

You might start with making a list of information you want to know about your expert, or an opposing expert:

  • Areas that indicate bias.
  • Published works.
  • Attributed quotes.
  • Other activities.
  • Work history.
  • Multiple versions of a CV.

These are just some examples.

Where Do I Start?

Start with the “Google Cheatsheet” PDF document that I have linked to this post.  For life beyond Google you can look at the “Deep Web Cheatsheet” that is attached.

Google Cheatsheet rev. 201011

DeepWeb Cheatsheet rev 201011

Last Minute Tips

If you are not already comfortable doing so, learn how to use “Browser Tabs” in your internet browser.  This will help you organize information you find and will allow you to conduct multiple-threaded searches.

Good luck!  As always, if you are an attorney or member of law enforcement and want to contact me to ask questions feel free to do so.  This post is actually a distillation of a 1.5 hour CLE training, and an 8 hour training that has been done for TCLEOSE credits.  If your law firm, legal association, or branch of LE is interested in the full training, I am happy to help.

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