I started using Google Advanced Search Operators during my time as a financial crimes analyst. My job was to analyze the financial records of high-risk clients for a large financial institution. Those clients consisted of both individuals and businesses. I had access to systems in both the financial industry and law enforcement agencies, but sometimes I had to resort to the open Internet — something we called OSINT, or Open Source Intelligence Gathering.
OSINT refers to any information that can legally be gathered from free, public sources about an individual or organization. Common public sources include:
- The internet (blogs, social media, press releases, and Youtube)
- Traditional mass media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines)
- Specialized journals and conferences
- Photos/Geospatial information (imagery analysis via Google Maps)
Once I sourced all the information I needed for my investigation, I wrote up a narrative based on my analysis of all the gathered information and submitted it to the financial institution.
By utilizing a few Google Advanced Search Operators with specific words, I was able to get my hands on information not easily found via a normal Google search. These are also some of the same tools that CIA analysts use to source information and analyze that information in the name of National Security.
For writers, these advanced search operators can come in handy when researching for an article, book, or any other type of content you’re creating. It can cut down the time spent on research and also make you feel like a spy at the same time. I’ve got a few favorites that I use quite often, so let’s go over how to use them for topic research.