Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine police have been using a controversial computer program developed to monitor the public’s social media posts.
program, known as Geofeedia, works by pinpointing the location of
people who are posting publicly on social media platforms, such as
Twitter and Facebook.
Geofeedia was developed with financial
support from the CIA. As it has gained traction with police who use it
to track protests and look for danger signs like the word “gun” online,
it has also become the center of a national debate over privacy and
“People don’t realize that the
government is monitoring the personal information they share,” said
Zachary Heiden, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of
Maine. “This isn’t just the police standing in a public square. This is
the police standing in our bedrooms and living rooms.”
that they are merely listening in on public statements. But privacy and
free speech advocates contend that people shouldn’t have to worry about
government surveillance when speaking their minds online. Perhaps as a
result of such criticism, last month Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cut
Geofeedia off from their data.
The South Portland Police
Department began using Geofeedia in 2014 and recently renewed its
subscription for a third year, said officer Kevin Gerrish, who
coordinates the program for Maine’s fourth most populated city. The
Maine State Police also purchased a license for the program, according
to Gerrish and State Police officer Kyle Willette, although neither
could provide details.
But thousands of dollars later, the South
Portland police say that, at least for their department, the high-tech
surveillance hasn’t led to any arrests.
Geofeedia has cost the
South Portland department $13,500, which was mostly paid for through a
grant, according to the department.
But the program mostly returns false hits.