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Private Investigator Book Review: Internet Searches for Vetting, Investigations, and Open-Source Intelligence

  • April 26, 2011
  • by Larry Zilliox

I have been a private investigator for more than 25 years. When I started in this business computers were scarce and the Internet had not yet been commercialized. Everything was done with a pencil and telephone. I have a lot of experience so it is hard for me to find books that are useful. I buy books hoping to learn one or two new things.

I was excited to hear CRC Press was releasing Internet Searches for Vetting, Investigations, and Open-Source Intelligence by Edward J. Appel, a retired FBI agent. His company has done work for me so I knew the quality of his work and assumed his book would be at the same level as his investigative efforts. I wasnt disappointed.

The book is 320 pages and broken into 4 sections. Appel begins with a chapter about behavior and technology which orients the investigator/analyst on the growth and use of the Internet. He discusses the usefulness of the Internet as an investigative tool and the transformations the Internet is making through social and technological advances. Along with the benefits for investigators comes the darker side of the web, and Appel examines its criminal exploitation.

The first section provides a great introduction and is geared toward corporate investigators and security personnel tasked with monitoring IT systems, vetting employees and guarding company intellectual property. In Section 2 Appel outlines legal and policy issues related to using information from the Internet in investigations. He identifies liability and privacy issues and laws addressing these concerns such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act. He also dedicates a chapter to litigation, defamation, and invasion of privacy torts.

Appel develops a framework for preparation and planning of successful Internet research. He covers basic information about search engines, metasearch engines, social networking sites and search terms.
I found the chapters Automation of Searching and Internet Intelligence Reporting to be the most enlightening. Reducing time spent searching and analyzing information seems like a no-brainer. But I would bet the number of investigators who have looked for automated solutions to their collection efforts is small. The Internet Intelligence Reporting section recommends the format and organization of a report as well as what to include and how to cite sources.

Internet Searches for Vetting, Investigations, and Open-Source Intelligence, like many trade publications, is on the pricey side at $58.75. However it delivers with content and is an easy read. It met my criteria for a successful investigations book because I learned much more than two new things.

Larry Zilliox is the President of Investigative Research Specialists (, LLC a veteran owned small business located in Bristow, VA.

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