Saturday, December 20, 2014

Minority Report in real life: how social media posts impact your threat rating


Whether you’re a young, proactive blogger, a prolific Facebook poster, an occasional Twitter user or a compulsive promulgator of cat photos, someone you don’t know is watching you. Social media activities are being meticulously recorded, scanned and organized to determine your “threat level” that is then transmitted to various law enforcement agencies.

For example, your local police department is likely using numerous tools and applications that might determine how you get treated during a routine traffic stop, or in response to your neighbor’s call about loud music. One such application, Beware, has been sold to police departments since 2012. It can be accessed on any Internet-enabled device, including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, while responders are en route to, or at the location of a call.

This app explores billions of records in social media postings, commercial and public databases for law enforcement needs, churning out “risk profiles” in real time. ‘Beware’ algorithm assigns a score and “threat rating” to a person — green, yellow or red – and sends that rating to a requesting officer. Worst of all, this information is not made available to the very person whose “threat rating” is being appraised. You have no ability to dispute being wrongly designated a high-risk potential offender.