The terms OSINT (open source intelligence) and HUMINT (human intelligence) are used by private investigators regularly but what are they, and what is the difference? When conducting background checks OSINT or database research might help you find the preliminary information, but how can you confirm this information is accurate? This is where the two differentiate, but work in tandem. Every private investigator knows that proper due diligence is paramount in any investigation. Finding information online such as YouTube videos, posts on Facebook, images on Instagram and additional sources tracing a digital footprint helps the investigator make educated decisions in any investigation. As these forums listed above were not available 20 or so years ago, it has propelled the industry forward, making it easier than ever to trace a person. Today, investigators use paid services alongside free services such as truepeoplesearch.com. The great thing about OSINT is that it can be performed without leaving your personal workspace.

It’s such a reliable source of information that OSINT is currently being used to help fight the war in Ukraine. 


HUMINT (Human intelligence) involves the investigator obtaining information by foot, or interpersonal contact. The information obtained with human intelligence can be very crucial to any case. The ability to understand who a subject associates or interacts with can assist in finding additional OSINT information. An example could be a private investigator identifying a close associate to a subject, running an OSINT search on these people finding tagged photos or additional posts, photos and images, complimenting case findings. 

Some examples of Human Intelligence gathering:

  • Profile targeting, including their motivations, needs, wants, and even their dreams and temper triggers.
  • Being able to recognize a subject or target. 
  • Understand body language, facial micro expressions, and other tiny clues.
  • Use techniques to alter a subjects state of mind to target them into a place you need them to be; mentally, emotionally, or psychologically.
  • Maintain contacts and continue to network. Sometimes having someone knowledgeable in a specific function can be to your benefit. 
  • In some cases, putting yourself in the subjects state of mind can help you find clues, or figure out who they are in their free time. 


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