Published On: Fri, Apr 24th, 2015

Texas police department fighting to purchase social media monitoring, tracking software

The Frisco Police Department in Texas is seeking a $35,000 grant to purchase software and related computer equipment to monitor public social media posts for criminal activity and other reported “intelligence-gathering purposes.”

The application’s submittal was approved by the Frisco City Council despite strong reservations from several residents who spoke out against the idea. Their concerns mostly revolved around privacy issues and the possible infringement of people’s rights.

facebook twitter iconsTo aggregate the information in one place “is a dangerous proposition,” Brett Sanders told the council, adding, “I do not want the police trolling social media to go find underage drinking parties. That’s absurd. We should not be paying police to do this.”

Police Chief John Bruce countered, saying that the information is already available on social media sites ranging from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram. The equipment simply makes the intelligence-gathering more efficient.

“We’re not talking about private conversations,” Bruce told the council. “We’re talking about conversations that are in the public sector.”

Bruce said his department did a trial run of one company’s software at last year’s Jimmy Buffett concert.

Officers put in key words like underage drinking, fights and marijuana. “We were seeing, especially with fights, we were getting information across social media monitoring long before anyone was calling the police department, and we were able to respond prior to us ever getting calls for service,” he said.

Another example was a party where the posts were linked to a party where the kids “…were tearing up the house, and there was in fact underage drinking,” Bruce said. “We got to the house a lot sooner before a lot of destruction happened.”

The grant is being sought through the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the Homeland Security Urban Areas Security Initiative. Bruce asked the council to allow his department to apply for the grant. He said he would come back to council so they can consider the grant again if the city’s proposal is accepted. The council voted 6-0 to move forward with the application.

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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