Is there such a think as an online private detective? A Dick Tracy of sorts for the Internet world? Can not you just see the smoke filled, dark investigation room with laptops scattered about.
If you search for things like Internet detective, or cyber investigator, or online detective, you will find tons of information about performing private investigations for yourself but very little about live, private investigators willing to track down online perpetrators. In reality, this is a brand new industry that is starting to form.
If you are simply trying to find someone, let's say an old friend from high school, then there is a ton of online services to help you accomplish that task. As an example, NetDetective (of which I have no affiliation), is probably one of the more popular sites. According to their website, NetDetective "allows you to remember information you want to know about your doctor, boss, friends, neighbors, lover and even yourself."
While this kind of service is extremely helpful for the right applications, it does not offer solutions to the second type: I need to find, stop, or prove that someone is doing something bad online to me, my company, or my loved ones. Now this is a horse of an absolutely different color.
Let me give you an example. Recently, we were contacted by a high profile person that was being attacked by former partners and friends. The attacks were relentless including social media (facebook), anonymous blog and blog comments, emails, etc. To the point that person was also concerned about physical safety even though that was not being openly threatened.
Unfortunately, people being attacked in the Internet world are typically not going to be helped by traditional lawyers and law enforcement. Lawyers are very good at litigating and taking every legal action once they can prove that someone is attacking their client. But how will they do that when the online attacker is hidden by layers of security and masked IP addresses. Most law firms do not have the resources for such investigations.
Unless the threat is serious enough, then conventional law enforcement will likely be unable to help since this really does not fall within their charter.
What should the client do? For people that work in this little specialty, they have had a number of calls from both companies and individuals that are at their wits end because of their online reputation being attacked. They literally do not know where to turn.
What the individual really needs is an Internet investigator, or an online detective that will help them gather needed information and can then point them to appropriate legal or law enforcement resources.
So, as you can see, there is a very large difference between and online investigator vs a service like NetDetective. Each have their own specialty and application.