Wealth of online data a mixed blessing for investigators
The ever-expanding pool of information available online can be both a help and a hinderance to today’s private investigation companies, according to some recently released research published by Cleveland-based The Freedonia Group.
On the one hand, people who would be otherwise in the market for investigations services may be tempted to do their own digging online; on the other, skilled investigators know how to make the best use of the Internet.
“It’s kind of been a double-edged sword with all of the technology that’s been available,” explains Freedonia Group analyst Katherine Brink. “There’s been a large increase in the number of resources online for free, meaning that more individuals are able to look online and find information easier than in the past. In that way, having all that information online kind of competes with those who are doing private investigations, especially in smaller instances, just because it is easier to find data.”
There’s so much data available today, whether it’s public records or the exponential growth of social media, that amateurs may be able to find out a lot on own. Social media in particular represents a massive source of information. People, sometimes unwittingly, reveal a lot about themselves, often due to not knowing how to properly lock down or change the privacy settings on their social media accounts, says Brink.
“Even if someone has security figured out on Facebook, that doesn’t mean they have all their security features figured out on Twitter or any other social media that they’re using,” she explains. “It’s easier to connect the dots, because there is such a large cyber footprint.”
On balance, though, investigators tend to come out ahead, adds Brink. They “have more resources available to them,” she says. “They’re best able to leverage the information that’s available today.”
Freedonia’s “Private Security Services in the U.S., 15th Edition” offers other insights and predictions, notably that private investigation service revenues are projected to expand more than three per cent through the year 2021 to US$6.4 billion. (The data is all generated from U.S. sources, but the conclusions may be more broadly applicable to the Canadian market, says Brink, particularly since they reflect those drawn from more global studies.)
While Freedonia anticipates continued growth in the private security market, some aspects of it are growing faster than others. “Mature” markets, like guarding, are still growing, but at a lesser rate. Due to the already substantial size of this market, its slower growth may actually be pulling down the overall growth rate.
Diversification has meant that other areas of the security business tend to be growing faster for these companies, says Brink, particularly in the areas of systems integration and consulting services.
Diversification has also resulted in a bifurcation of the market, adds Brink, between large and small service providers. The former tend to be the ones that are exploring other revenue generating opportunities, whereas smaller companies are becoming specialists, either in disciplines offered or geographic markets served. “It seems to be kind of polarizing in that regard,” concludes Brink.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2017 issue of Canadian Security magazine.