The Boston Police Department has announced a plan to spend $1.4 million dollars to purchase a computer program that will let officers monitor people’s social media activity.
The new social media monitoring system has raised the ire of privacy watchdogs in the Boston area, who say that the new system will increase government surveillance and intimidate free speech online. However, according to the Boston police, the social media monitoring will only be used to detect online criminal activity and threatening behavior.
The Boston police aren’t disclosing much in the way of details regarding this new surveillance program or how it will be used by officers. So far, the department hasn’t even chosen the surveillance software that they will use. There are several companies that make social media surveillance software, and the Boston police are involved in a bidding phase among several of these software vendors.
Critics of the new surveillance plan say that the Boston Police Department hasn’t given people much room for input about the new program. Some people want to know in advance what surveillance capabilities the social media monitoring will have and how they will be used before the system is operational.
Fitzgerald said that there are a lot of illegal activities that occur online and the department wants to be more proactive in dealing with criminal activity before it ends up in the streets of Boston. Social media gives police the ability to monitor public information online and use it for crime detection and prevention in the real world.
The Boston Police Department is not the first law enforcement agency to use social media surveillance to monitor criminal activity. Numerous other departments, including the FBI, are already using this technology to monitor people online.
About $300K of the money for Boston’s social media tracking software is being covered by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.