Photo Searching and Deleted Web Pages
As a private investigator, being able to search for people online is a vital skill. This is a brief overview of how you can improve your own online sleuthing with 2 different resources.
Disclaimer: although the subject matter of this article is political in nature. This is no way an endorsement of any political party.
With the recent media scrutiny at the Republican National Convention after Melania Trump’s speech, a name unknown to many emerged as a trending topic overnight. Meredith McIver, a speechwriter for the Trump campaign appeared on everyone’s radar.
Meredith had taken the blame for lifting lines from Michelle Obama’s speech in 2008. The media started breaking stories right away. Journalists were trying to find out who Meredith was and if she was even a real person.
Photo Searching with Tineye
Columbia, SC is no stranger to political events so the private investigator curiosity in me led to some searches of my own. I start with a basic Google search for Meredith McIver.
Searching her name brings up an onslaught of media links to stories about how she is or isn’t a real person. I don’t want the media’s coverage of this so I’m going to take a different approach. Clicking the ‘images’ tab in Google gives us several photos that have surfaced of Meredith. I picked one that is a profile photo from a twitter account.
Social media profile photos are a great place to start searching for a person. The website Tineye.com is my top choice for searching a picture. Tineye is a reverse image search engine, meaning photo identifiers are used instead of characters or keywords to find matches.
Tineye brings up 2 matches for Meredith’s twitter photo.
Unfortunately the links to Meredith’s page on both Tineye sites have been taken down.
Finding Deleted Content with The Wayback Machine
The next search tool that private investigators should know about is: www.archive.org. Known as the Way Back Machine, this website has been archiving snapshots of internet webpages since October 2001. It is possible to go back and visit an older version of the website before a page was taken down.
Let’s take a look at the celebritytalentpromotions.com site again. If we look for the full link we got from Tineye http://www.celebritytalentpromotions.com/speaker/image/60×60/meredith-mciver.jpg
We get an error:
Seems like a dead end, but what happens if we shorten the link a little bit?
The Wayback machine tells us that it saved the speaker page 28 times between March 5th, 2013 and October 26th, 2015.
I pick a date from 2013 with the timeline selector and specify July 4th’s archive date. The search by name category is still active on this version of the webpage. Meredith McIver is in the drop down menu ‘By Name’
Looks like a match to the twitter profile photo! These archived links are shareable and this one can be viewed here:
Why are these search methods important to Private Investigators?
1) In this example I used photo searching to filter excess results due to a trending topic in the media. Private Investigators must know how to overcome too much information as well as too little when researching.
2) Searching a social media profile photo will often produce other social media accounts. In past investigations I found that subjects often disguise their names. Basic investigation will usually not find these disguised accounts. Occasional reuse of a profile picture will make a photo search pay off.
3) Knowing how to look into the online past of a website with the Wayback Machine is a great way to see deleted information.