Facebook has recently announced some very important measures to protect the privacy of its user base, in light of the recent leak of private user information to Cambridge Analytica. In particular, users will no longer be able to search by email address or phone number in Facebook to come up with matching profiles (under “Search and Account Recovery”). This is definitely a win for privacy advocates and for Facebook users, but it is a devastating blow to the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) community. Many law enforcement and private investigators relied on the feature for tracking down the Facebook accounts of persons of interest, specifically when you have ambiguous names in the same location (imagine how many Michael Smith’s there are in Florida).
However, there are some features to help you narrow down all the Michael Smith’s in Florida to YOUR Michael Smith. The Picture / Name / Location Search feature in WIST. It takes advantage of the latest facial recognition technology to help narrow down your list of 1000 Michael Smiths to a few that are close visual matches. Below are some terrific examples of Face/Name search in action in different scenarios
- Male Full Name search + Photo + City
- Male First Name + Last Initial search + Photo + City (with occluded yes)
- Female First Name + Middle Name + Photo
We plugged in many different name / location / image combinations into the tool, and on average we had a 300% decrease in time for investigators to find the correct Facebook account corresponding to the target picture. In fact, it can narrow down search by gender, ethnicity, approximate age, beard, and hair color. The alternative is the rather unpleasant manual Facebook evidence capture technology, the old paperweight on the spacebar trick. 1 hour and 300 pages later, you have your screenshot, as long as your browser doesn’t crash before that!
WIST was already a powerful tool for timeline extraction and unlocking friends lists, and now with this new feature to match pictures and names to reduce the possible matches, an investigator will save loads of tedious and time-consuming mouse-clicks, and the dreaded space bar reload of page after page of profiles to find your needle in the haystack.