My Favourite Tipples from an online intelligence investigator
Wednesday, 5th October 2016
By Arthur Weiss
My Favourite Tipples are shared by Arthur Weiss - competitive intelligence researcher & trainer - who regularly discovers material uploaded to the web that should be protected or secret.
Effective online competitive intelligence research involves more than standard Google searching. I'll regularly use other sources plus the advanced search operators on search engines such as Google and Bing.
- Google: My first Tipple seems straightforward. It's adjusting Google's search settings. The default number of results is 10 and very few people look beyond the 20 or 30 results. I check 100 and often more results to find items that aren't search-engine optimised - hidden except for the most persistent OR those who make the default listing 100 results. The time taken is little more than looking at 30 results the normal way. Go to Google search preferences and switch off Google Instant (select the radio-button for "Never show instant results"). Then move the slider for "Results per page" to 100. Also tick the check-box in "Where results open" so you don't overwrite the search list when selecting results. Save and you're done. (Do this for Google's local sites too).
- The Investigative Dashboard: My next link is more specialist. Obtaining free UK company accounts at Companies House's new beta site is easy. However, what happens if you need information on non-UK jurisdictions, and don't know what's available? The Investigative Dashboard lists financial and many legal sources globally - from Abu Dhabi to Zimbabwe.
- World Stock Exchanges: If the company you are researching is quoted on a stock exchange somewhere in the world it is likely to have publicly available annual accounts. Not all companies include such data on their website - but if you know the relevant stock market, you may find the data for free. One listing of global stock exchanges is World Stock Exchanges. There is also a fun infographics site showing the locations and sizes of the top 60 stock exchanges. This is part of The Money Project with several more infographics and videos, including one called "Donald Trump's Entire Financial History in One Short Video".
- OffStats: Moving beyond finances the OffStats database lists official statistical information sources globally (kudos to the University of Auckland for keeping this going).
- IntelTechniques: Staying on the investigation trail, Michael Bazell has a great website supporting in-depth research - including tools for mining social media (tools list on the left) while sites such as Echosec let you see who is tweeting, within a specific area (perhaps a competitor's offices).
- Citizen Evidence Lab: My final Tipple is the Amnesty International sponsored Citizen Evidence Lab for verifying the origins of images and videos. (Is that image really from a conflict zone like Syria or Gaza, or faked and from a completely different conflict? I've seen images labelled as an Israeli massacre of Palestinians that was actually a photograph of Jews killed in the Holocaust, or from the Korean Civil War).
One resource I turn to for fun or non-work reasons:
- Google's Cultural Institute takes Google Street View technology into cultural locations globally, letting you wander through museums such as the Hermitage in St Petersburg without a visa.
An article in Jinfo which I found particularly interesting:
- My favourite recent Jinfo article fits in with some of the above Tipples as it also focuses on finding global information - although on a much narrower scale looking only at one region: "Insider knowledge - researching Central Africa" by Colin Smith.
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