According to a Boston Globe article, the Boston Police Department plans to purchase new software that will be able to search websites, blogs, social media (basically anything on the Internet), to screen for criminal activity and public safety threats.
However, as with any change in the public space, there is already pushback from civil liberty groups calling it “alarming” and were angry that there was a “lack of transparency in selecting the software” according to the Globe. There also were worries that it poses a threat to free speech and privacy.
Since everything on the Internet is already public and viewable, I think these “fears” are unfounded and useless (not to be politic-y or anything like it). Everyone is educated on the dangers of over-posting online, and how it can impact your life away from the computer. Posting about criminal activity or threats of any type is asking to get caught or reported to the authorities, and this software just cuts out the middle man’s responsibility of reporting. The software can create a virtual “fence” that sends alerts if a post is added containing any of the targeted search criteria.
The main complaint that can be debated is that the Boston Police did not ask the citizens “whether we want our tax dollars spent on something like this,” according to Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. BPD is planning to spend up to $1.4 million on the software. According to the Boston Globe, they intend to pick a vendor by December 5th.
Crockford believes that the groups can potentially target Black Lives Matter, members of the Tea Party, and anyone who make not agree with the government.
Maybe it’s political exhaustion stemming from the last year, but if this software does what it’s supposed to, I’m all for it. I’m not going to complain about an extra layering keeping me safe. Sure, taxpayers were not asked to approve it. However, there are many programs that taxpayers are not directly asked for input. If that were the case, voting would be a much more grueling process for all involved.