Surfing the Net, Part 2

Surfing the Net, Part 2 is a guest post by Colleen Collins & Shaun Kaufman. Part 1 was posted on October 17, 2011. Today we’ll look at some online U.S.government records, business searches, social media databases, and Deep Web searches.


We’re Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman, who co-own Highlands Investigations & Legal Services, Inc. in Denver, Colorado. Shaun is also a lawyer (Shaun Kaufman Law at Colleen is also a multi-published novelist ( who just published her second non-fiction ebook How Do Private Eyes Do That? available on Kindle and Nook.

Examples of U.S.Government Databases

Below is a sampling of local, state and U.S. databases: Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts, and from the U.S. Party/Case Index. Access to the websites of thousands of state agencies and city and county governments. Tells users which states provide official government certificates (deaths, marriages, divorces) down to the city level. Federal Bureau of prisons (nationwide search) by name or identification number.

Examples of Business Databases

Below are two business databases a private investigator might research: Comprehensive source of information on business professionals that contains over 19 million executives, managers, and professionals. LinkedIn’s membership consists of 120+ million professionals.

Next, let’s check out the growing number of social media search engines.

Digging the Social Scene: Social Media Search Engines

Some social media search engines search dozens, sometimes hundreds, of social networking sites, blogs, forums, communities and so on. Rather than log into one social networking site – for example Twitter or Facebook – an investigator can instead run an identifier (such as a name, event, city, phone number) in a social media search engine and “go wide” with his search.

Below is a list of some social media search engines that we’ve found handy in our work.

  • 48ers ( Another real-time conversation search engine.
  • ( A real-time search-media search engine.
  • Socialmention ( A real-time social media search engine that lets you select a specific social medium (such as blogs) or select all social media site types (including images, audio, comments).

Now let’s dive into the Deep Web.

Diving into the Deep Web: Search Engines and Tips

The term Deep Web (also called the Invisible Web) refers to the unseen Internet content not indexed by traditional search engines. Some estimates are that the Deep Web is 500 times larger than the surface Web (the visible Web).

Sites That Provide More Information About the Deep Web
  • Monitors Invisible Web research resources and sites on the Internet
  • Collects known, unknown, and hidden content from formerly inaccessible Web sources
  • Maintains a directory of over 70,000 searchable databases.
Examples of Deep Web People Search Databases
  • Comprehensive search engine that pulls from Deep Web sources.
  • This is one of our favorite Deep Web search engines. It displays an impressive list of categories in its results, including people’s personal profiles, Web pages, documents, blog posts, publications, news archives and photos.
Deep Web Search Tip

Add the words “search” or “database” (without the quotes) to your queries to bring those hidden databases and directories to the surface.

This ends part 2 of “Surfing the Net.” Happy searching, everyone!

All rights reserved 2011. The information and advice offered in this course should in no way be taken or construed as counsel or advice for persons requiring investigation assistance. If you would like to copy, forward, or distribute in any electronic or print means, please contact the authors at writingprivateinvestigators-at-gmail-dot-com.


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