You’ve probably heard about crowdsourcing when it comes to new business ventures, raising funding for projects, collecting donations for a specific person, or other projects. It’s a basic platforming solution (epitomized by sites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter) that brings people together to make many small donations – or activities – to support a larger project.
At first glance, it may not seem like PIs have much to do with crowdsourcing in general. However, crowdsourcing is having an impact on the industry in a couple of different ways, which is worth paying attention to if you want to keep up on the latest trends and understand what’s changing. Let’s take a look at the ways PI crowdsourcing works – and what’s staying the same.
Crowdsourcing Finding Private Investigators
This type of crowdsourcing refers to platforms specifically designed to help clients find private investigators in their area – specifically, investigators with the right skills to help their particular situation. A current example of this is the Gotem platform, an ambitious venture designed to help private investigators and clients coordinate along more private channels while still enabling easy communication on an international level. Gotem uses an innovative smart contract system with a third-party mediator that helps to avoid fraud while also ensuring payment.
Gotem is not a set-in-stone future for PIs. There are some uncertain aspects of the platform, especially its reliance on the cryptocurrency Etherium instead of more traditional payment methods. However, it received a significant amount of attention because it was an example of just how crowdsourcing and authentication practices could enable a new era of investigation work for non-commercial clients.
Crowdsourcing Job Completion Metrics
There’s something else interesting that Gotem does – it encourages a thorough review and screening process that shows clients enough detailed information about PIs to make their decision – info that may not be traditionally available. Yes, many online platforms include reviews and ratings, like Google My Business and Facebook Business Pages. But in addition to reviews, Gotem adds built-in evidence of case management and communication (which is enabled by blockchain but doesn’t necessarily require cryptocurrency). Clients can quickly read reviews or search for particular needs, and can count on having their experience recorded for later reference, while PIs can use the same information to avoid liability issues or provide evidence of their work.
The platform also has a rigorous screening process that requires investigators to comply with all local licensing and registration, a bit of third-party filtering that may also become a more important part of the industry in the future.
Crowdsourcing Funding for Specific PI Jobs
There’s also a more independent use of crowdsourcing we’ve seen, particularly in the United States: Here, clients turn to platforms like GoFundMe to raise funds specifically for a private investigator that they can’t otherwise afford. This allows for a new group of clients, who believe something is wrong but couldn’t traditionally afford a PI, to pay for one. All the usual rules of conduct still apply – the PI should make it clear they can only gather evidence, not guarantee a predetermined outcome – but it’s an interesting new corner of the market.
Crowdsourcing witnesses is nothing new: Police hotlines for tips on crimes were one of the earliest examples. But today online tools allow PIs to access crowdsourcing for all kinds of information for their own cases, providing they are willing to put in the work. One option is anonymous social media platforms and message boards that make it easy to ask casual questions about a particular place and time, anything from Reddit to 4Chan to more localized online forums or even boards like Craigslist.
Of course, this does have its limitations. Anonymous witnesses aren’t the most reliable sources, and everything learned by this type of crowdsourcing needs to be corroborated, so it’s a good place to start looking for leads and additional information, but far from the end of the job. There’s also the risk that these discussions could lead to unproductive witch hunts rather any useful information. However, as PIs are becoming more accustomed to gathering information from these sources, they are finding the most effective ways of reaching out – which usually means not mentioning they are working a case.
PIs that partner with law enforcement may also have access to systems like LA’s LEEDIR (Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository). Systems like these collect evidence like photo and video footage from submissions. These systems are on the rise in many jurisdictions as agencies work to find the most effective ways to manage them.
Crowdsourcing is still in the very early stages in the PI field and attempts that involve cryptocurrency are even more dubious. But the trend continues to grow and points to potential new solutions for PI clients that want additional assurances. Watch for any new networks that PIs in your region are joining to see if crowdsourced features start becoming more popular, especially for simple things like online reviews. These could start having more impact on your business – or provide new opportunities to find clients!