Last week I received a call from a private investigator in Arizona. He assists families who are searching for missing children, and was interested in tracking down a missing teenage girl by using cell towers. He had found us through a blog post that I made a few years back.
He went on to tell me that he had a contact at AT&T who was able to provide him with the cell tower information from the last known location of the missing child’s cell phone, and that he needed an expert to help decipher the information and nail down a location.
I pointed him in the direction of Scott Ross, who is an expert in this area.
But there was something about the call that struck me.
He was able to get the cell tower information about the missing girl through a “source” within AT&T.
This is not information that should ever be allowed to leave the confines of AT&T’s servers without some sort of court order.
I am sure the investigator and the AT&T source who provided the information knew that.
I am also quite sure that they justified their decisions by telling themselves that what they were doing was for a missing child who might be in danger. And that they were just trying to help a grieving family.
But what if these cell tower records were for a man trying to track the location of his ex-girlfriend?
Does that change the story?
Regardless of the circumstances, are investigators who use unethical (and sometimes illegal) means to obtain desired results able to justify their actions?
It’s a critical question that every private investigator faces.
And when a challenge like this is faced, how it is handled says a lot about you and your company.
To me, the answer is a clear no.
Every. Single. Time.
The end does not justify the means.