I guess we all know that police use scanners to receive alerts and messages concerning possible criminal activity or traffic violations in their vicinity. Well now some ingenious entrepreneurs in Chicago have created a social media scanner that will alert authorities to potential “social protests.” I am not talking about Vladimir Putin here (sorry Donald). I am actually referring to a company called Geofeedia that can use data collected from social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to help law enforcement monitor and respond to potentially disruptive activity in certain parts of its community. Geofeedia was in Baltimore in April 2015 after Freddie Gray died in police custody.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have now said that they have cut off Geofeedia’s access to their information. Too little too late? Civil liberties advocates still criticize the companies for lax oversight and challenge them to create better mechanisms to monitor how their data is being used. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Northern California still seems wary of these assurances. “When they open their feeds to companies that market surveillance products, they risk putting their users in harm’s way.” I guess we are still in living in the days of “buyer beware!
At the same time, there also seems to be a more serious concern. “Users of social media websites do not expect or want the government to be monitoring this information. And users should not be at risk of being branded a risk to public safety simply for speaking their mind on social media.”