The Boston Police Department is eyeing software designed to scan social media and the Internet for criminal activity and threats to the public.
The Boston Globe reports that the technology, used by other police departments, will search blogs, websites, chat rooms, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
It will help police determine where the content was posted and send alerts when new posts are made.
The Globe reports that police plan to spend up to $1.4 million on the software and to select a vendor by Dec. 5.
Civil liberty activists, including the ACLU, worry the technology could be a risk to free speech and privacy.
“We should be able to speak freely on the Internet without worrying that government agents are going to be listening to us,” said Kade Crockford, of ACLU Technology for Liberty Project.
The ACLU believes there are several issues with this type of surveillance and who is targeted.
“This is going to be used to focus on dissidents, people exercising their first amendment rights to criticize the government,” Crockford said.
Some Boston area residents said they would be OK with the potential new technology.
“There’s nothing secret anymore,” said Beth Mohn, of Boston. “If you have nothing to hide, why can't they look at it.”
“I think the safer the better. If you can identify things before they come, then more power to you,” said Lilli Cullen, of Boston.
Police say the information is already public and the program will adhere to state and federal laws.
In a statement, a Boston Police Department spokesperson said:
“While no decision has been reached by the department to adopt or purchase this social media analysis tool, policies and procedures are already in place to ensure the protection of personal privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.”