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New World Systems: Police are spying on social media and assessing your ‘threat rating’

Published: December 15, 2014
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Source: Mass Private I

New World Systems  offers software that allows dispatchers to enter in a person’s name to see if they’ve had contact with the police before.  Provided crime data, PredPol claims that  its software “forecasts highest risk times and places for future crimes.” These and other technologies are supplanting and enhancing traditional police work.

Public safety organizations, using DHS funding, are set to begin building a $7-billion nationwide first-responder wireless spying network, called FirstNet

FirstNet is a giant surveillance network. For more info. about FirstNet, read my story from March 2014 "FirstNet America's national 'First Responder' surveillance & spying network".

Beware, has been sold to police departments since 2012 by a private company, Intrado. This mobile application crawls over billions of records in commercial and public databases for law enforcement needs. The application “mines criminal records, Internet chatter and other data to churn out … profiles in real time,” according to one article in an Illinois newspaper.

Here’s how the company describes it on their website:
Accessed through any browser (fixed or mobile) on any Internet-enabled device including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, Beware® from Intrado searches, sorts and scores billions of commercial records in a matter of seconds-alerting responders to potentially deadly and dangerous situations while en route to, or at the location of a call.
Crunching all the database information in a matter of seconds, the Beware algorithm then assigns a score and “threat rating” to a person — green, yellow or red. It sends that rating to a requesting officer.

For example, working off a home address, Beware can send an officer basic information about who lives there, their cell phone numbers, whether they have past convictions and the cars registered to the address. Police have had access to this information before, but Beware makes it available immediately.

Yet it does far more — scanning the residents’ online comments, social media and recent purchases for warning signs. Commercial, criminal and social media information, including, as Intrado vice president Steve Reed said in an interview with, “any comments that could be construed as offensive,” all contribute to the threat score.

There are many troubling aspects to these programs. There are, of course, obvious risks in outsourcing traditional police work — determining who is a threat — to a proprietary algorithm. Deeming someone a public threat is a serious designation, and applications like Beware may encourage shortcuts and snap decisions.

It is also disconcerting that police would access and evaluate someone’s online presence. What types of comments online will increase a threat score? Will race be apparent?

Police departments have NSA like spying powers for social media monitoring.

LexisNexis' social media monitor service allows police to spy on your social media posts.

The NYPD has admitted to monitoring events on Twitter and Facebook, even creating a formal unit for such purposes. The rise of social media in everyday communication has seen the NYPD launch "social-media driven investigations," going as far as having the officers conducting them establish aliases and use laptops with untraceable Internet cards.

Use of facial recognition technology is not limited to just the NYPD. The New York State DMV has utilized facial recognition software to cut down on identity fraud and people illegally obtaining a second license while the first was suspended. The program has resulted in more then 2,500 arrests. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been working on a nationwide facial recognition system, part of the $1 billion Next Generation Identification program.

The intrusion of the surveillance state into areas such as social media is troubling for a number reasons. While police departments claim that such measure are necessary for fighting crime and federal agencies wish to use them to combat terrorism, privacy advocates fear that such technologies will make it much easier to place people under surveillance. In the past the FBI has put those who threatened to upset the status quo, such as Martin Luther King, under intense surveillance. In 2007 the American Civil Liberties Union released a report detailing the Pentagon monitoring at least 186 anti-military protests. During the Occupy Wall Street protests the FBI conducted extensive surveillance on the movement.

Privacy advocates worry that increasing the ease by which police departments can identify people at certain locations may make it easier to mask abuses of civil liberties. Instead of having to investigate and arrest all the protesters at a public protest, law enforcement agencies could utilize facial recognition technology to selectively detain organizers, cutting off the organization of the protest at its Achilles tendon.

During a Senate hearing on privacy, Senator Al Franken expressed such concerns:

“I fear that the FBI pilot [on facial recognition] could be abused to not only identify protesters at political events and rallies, but to target them for selective jailing and prosecution, stifling their First Amendment rights. Curiously enough, a lot of the presentations on this technology by the Department of Justice show it being used on people attending political events or other public gatherings. I also fear that without further protections, facial recognition technology could be used on unsuspecting civilians innocent of any crime — invading their privacy and exposing them to potential false identifications.”

This summer the Boston Police used facial recognition software to spy on everyone who attended a music festival!

"Homeland Security" police visit activist's home ask her about her Facebook posts: 

Laura Krasovitzky a University of Pennsylvania student organizer was visited on the morning of December 8th by a Philadelphia Police Department detective, who she soon learned was in the Homeland Security Bureau, asking about posts in a Facebook group.

“The detective told me he was there because of specific language I used in the notes I posted on the ‘Ferguson to Philly’ Facebook group after the town hall meeting of Dec. 2. He had the notes printed out,” Krasovitzky says.

Krasovitzky, who says she is active in several causes but has been mostly focused on work with Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), which has been heavily engaged in actions responding to both the Ferguson and Staten Island non-indictments. SOUL staged a die-in attended by hundreds last week, and was represented at a December 2 town hall meeting held by community organizers in response to the verdicts. That community forum produced a list of “movement demands” – and language contained in that list brought Detective Ray Rycek to her dorm room at 11:00 AM.

He wanted to know about language in the notes which Krasovitzky had posted to the page, notes the student organizer had collected from various participants in a related working group from the Calvary meeting, she says, which described “targeting” the Christmas Village at Love Park, “targeting” disgraced and rehired Philly cop Jonathan Josey, and “targeting” Commissioner Charles Ramsey in an upcoming protest action. The Dignitary Protection Division detective told Krasovitzky that this was considered threatening, and questioned her regarding any plans for violence against the Commissioner or other persons.

Before eventually asking if she was being detained and upon being answered in the negative stating that she had nothing further to say, she completed a form which the detective had brought with him, containing Krasovitzky’s personal information, including her address and date-of-birth. On the form, in which she responded to concerns over “notes posted…in regards to targeting abusive cops (e.g., Jonathan Josey), Charles Ramsey…and the Christmas Village,” the Penn senior and prolific activist was quoted by the detective:
“We are peaceful. We would not harm the Police Commissioner, visitors of the Christmas Village, or abusive cops. I have nothing further to say.”

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