Technology

California Police Scanning Social Media, Assigning People Threat Levels

| by Michael Allen

Police in Fresno, California, are implementing new software that will scan social media messages posted by the public and assign a threat rating.

The software is called Beware and it's supposed to warn officers of a possible dangerous situation they may be going into. Defenders of the program point to the two Brooklyn police officers who were killed after the gunman posted anti-police statements on his Instagram account.

Beware is produced by Intrado, a company that buys large amounts of personal information about Americans that is sold by marketing companies. Intrado also includes arrest records from law enforcement databases, people's addresses and social media postings.

Beware then assigns a threat score or risk index with a green, yellow or red rating.

"It doesn't make them a criminal necessarily, some of those comments, but it certainly gives the officer an awareness that this person may have an anti-police sentiment and be an increasing level of threat to them," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer told ABC 30.

However, anti-police sentiment is not a crime in itself and civil rights advocates believe this type of data mining software may amount to unfair profiling.

"Oftentimes, when a call comes in to dispatch, we have minimal information provided to us and so our officers are driving into the scene expecting to know the unknown and then to make these split-second decisions with limited facts," added Chief Dyer.

Chief Dyer insists his officers need Beware to keep them safe, but so far in 2015 police in the United States have killed one American every eight hours.

Chief Dyer wants to add mental health information to the Beware database, but that information is private per federal laws.

According to the Intrado website, Beware "is a tool to help first responders understand the nature of the environment they may encounter during the window of a 9-1-1 event. It augments established protocols and procedures used by public safety personnel and presents data in a way that is typically unavailable to the first responder, helping them to be better prepared to render aid in response to an emergency situation."

Sources: Intrado.com, ABC 30
Image Credit: SGT141