New Racine police social media monitoring program draws skepticism

Tools

by Chris Patterson

RACINE -- Racine police could soon start a new computer program called "Snaptrends" to monitor your activity on Facebook and Twitter. Many civil liberty leaders say the new program poses constitutionality questions, and will lead to the innocent being put under a microscope.

The Racing City Council may approve a plan to spend $4,200 in federal funds for the social media monitoring software. Racine Alderman Eddie Diehl says, "It's open source material. They're not peering into someone's e-mail or text accounts on their cell phone."

Snaptrends allows police to track activity on social media within a geographic area. Alderman Diehl says, "Shopping, even voting habits, people are collecting open source data like this to use, but again that doesn't make it right."

Alderman Diehl wants to make sure Racine police only use the data for active investigations, so years of data isn't stored forever. ACLU Executive Director Chris Almuty says, "There are privacy implications, there are fourth amendment implications. The law is not really settled."

Ahmuty thinks police using tools like Snaptrends send their community the wrong message. "If you're online, if you're on social media, you are a suspect," says Ahmuty.

"The Racine Police Department has shown me nothing, but dedication to doing things the right way so I'm sure they'll be able to answer our questions tomorrow night."

Racine police would not comment about this program saying it could compromise future investigations. The city council will discuss this program September 3 at 7 p.m.

 

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