This AI can help police monitor social media. Did it go too far?

Since 2016, civil Free group Alarm has been issued on Online monitoring City officials and police departments have been chattering on social media. Services such as Media Sonar, Social Sentinel, and Geofeedia analyze online conversations and provide clues to police and city leaders to understand what hundreds of thousands of users are saying online.

Zencity, an Israeli data analysis company that serves 200 organizations in the United States, promotes itself as a less intrusive alternative because it only provides aggregated data and prohibits targeted surveillance of protests. Cities such as Phoenix, New Orleans and Pittsburgh said they use the service to combat misinformation and measure public reactions to topics such as social distancing enforcement or traffic laws.

In an interview with WIRED, CEO Eyal Feder-Levy described the service’s built-in privacy protection measures (such as editing personal information) as a new method of community participation.Nonetheless, local officials who use Zencity describe various new and potentially worrying uses of the tool. Some cities use these uses without public approval procedures, usually through Free trial.

Brandon Talsma, the county supervisor in Jasper County, Iowa, described the 72 hours since Zencity issued the warning last September. Zencity analysts noticed the gruesome killings on social media about Jasper County, and his office only used the tool for a few months.

A 44-year-old black man living in Grinnell was found dead in a ditch. His body was wrapped in a blanket and set ablaze. 92% of the city is white. Early news reports focused on harsh details, and there were rumors that the man had been lynched by Grinnell residents.

“We are a small county; our assets and resources are very limited,” Talsma said. “It has a way to become very ugly.”

Zencity pointed out that almost no online chat originated in Iowa. Talsma’s team is worried that rumors will snowball into misinformation Cause violenceTalsma said that the team did not consider race issues before Zencity reminded them to pay attention to online discussions.

The police said that the killing was not racially motivated. They held a press conference with the chairman of the Iowa-Nebraska Association for the Advancement of Colored People Betty Andrews Support this discovery. The police have since identified and charged Four suspects, three white men and one white woman, are related to this case.

Zencity creates custom reports for city officials and law enforcement agencies, using Machine learning Scan public conversations from social media, message boards, local news reports, and 311 calls to provide insights on how residents respond to specific topics. Companies such as Meltwater and Brandwatch similarly track keyword phrases for corporate customers, but do not prohibit users from viewing personal information.

This is a powerful tool for local law enforcement agencies across the country, who are still dealing with the nationwide debate on police reform and the recent surge in crime rates in major cities.

As long as critics conduct these discussions on public channels, Zencity can collect and generate reports on what they say. It cannot fully access the “fire hose” of all content discussed on Facebook and Twitter, but it will continue to run customized searches on social media platforms to check and measure sentiment.

“If they want to meet at this location or that location, it’s all public information and anyone can view it for free,” explained Tony Spurlock, the Sheriff of Douglas County, Colorado, south of Denver.He said that the sheriff’s office used the tool for about a year and signed a copy 72,000 USD contract Early 2021. The tool provides aggregate information and does not identify individual users.

Feder-Levy said agencies will be warned against using it. He said that if customers are using the service to target individuals or groups, the software will alert the company, just as it happens elsewhere.For example, in 2016, the Baltimore Police Tracking phrases such as #MuslimLivesMatter, #DontShoot and #PoliceBrutality.

Spurlock said the software proved to be useful after prosecutors concluded in April that the two police officers fired the shots in December last year were justified. The details of the shooting are complicated: the man was armed with a knife but had struggled with bipolar disorder for many years and personally called 911. Dispatch told police officers that they were responding to an urgent domestic violence call, but the man’s wife described the call as a health check and claimed that the police shot almost immediately after arriving.

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