Monday , 19 November 2018
Breaking News

Boston PD rethink social media monitoring

The mayor said a police plan to start monitoring social media will go forward after more community views are gathered


By Jordan Graham
Boston Herald

BOSTON — Mayor Martin J. Walsh said a police plan to start social media monitoring will go ahead once more community views are gathered, after the Boston Police Department decided not to accept any bids on the controversial software program for now.

“We’re not a spy agency, we’re a police department that is all about building relationships and building trust and building community, but also the job is to protect people,” Walsh said. “They’re going to put the proposal out again, but have conversations beforehand.”

The BPD said in a Friday night statement it would not go forward with a Request for Proposals it had already released, citing privacy concerns.

“After reviewing the submitted proposals I felt that the technology that was presented exceeds the needs of the department,” Commissioner William B. Evans said in a statement. “We will continue the process of inspecting what is available and ensuring that it meets the needs of the department while protecting the privacy of the public.”

The department has been looking to buy the technology since October of last year, and received three responses to its RFP, from Dataminr, Uncharted and Verint Technologies. The technology would scan posts on social media, identify relationships between users and alert police any time a monitored user posts from certain areas.

“Paramount to the RFP was ensuring that the technology operated within the framework of existing laws and policies intended to protect the privacy, civil rights and civil liberties of the public,” said Superintendent Paul Fitzgerald, commander of the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, in a memo to Evans.

“The proposals provided to the Department were thoroughly evaluated by the committee and at this time I recommend that the Department not award a contract to any of the respondents.”

The plan had been fiercely opposed by many, including the ACLU of Massachusetts, which called the plan “a dangerous proposal.”

“This is a victory not only for privacy and transparency but for the democratic process,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts.

City Councilor Andrea Campbell, who held a hearing on the plan last year, said she will hold another hearing if BPD moves forward with social media monitoring capabilities.

“Any time we deploy a new technology, we want to make sure we’re balancing privacy and other concerns,” Campbell said. “We need to have a transparent and open process.”

__ (c)2017 the Boston Herald

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