Rather Than Blaming Twitter, NY Police Using It To Track Gang Activity

from the good-for-them dept

We’ve seen way too many stories of law enforcement officials blaming online tools like Craigslist, rather than using them proactively to help fight crime. Luckily, it appears that more and more folks in law enforcement are smart enough to know better. Robert Ring alerts us to a story about how gangs in New York are using Twitter to communicate and coordinate, but rather than blaming Twitter, the NYC Police Department is using it as a handy tool to find out what’s going on:

Investigators are monitoring the traffic in hopes of sweeping up gangbangers before the bloodshed – and searching Twitter after attacks for clues.

“It is another tool … just like old phone records,” a police source said. “We can go through them [messages] to track these guys.”

Nice to see these tools being used properly by law enforcement, rather than yet another public freakout over the wrong thing.

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Companies: nypd, twitter

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Comments on “Rather Than Blaming Twitter, NY Police Using It To Track Gang Activity”

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13 Comments
Lisae Boucher (profile) says:

On the other hand...

On the other hand, when the police uses Facebook to catch minors who are drinking alcoholic beverages, people just start to complain about this misuse of social networks. Although minors drinking alcohol is far less offensive than generic criminal behavior, I cannot help but wonder why people are booing the use of Facebook to fine those underage alcoholics…

At least it’s good to see that law enforcement is starting to value these social networks as a source of information about (criminal) misbehavior.

Mike C. (profile) says:

Re: On the other hand...

We complain about the misuse of social networks because the police are taking a single moment in time and using that to convict someone of a crime.

Change the situation somewhat and see if you still agree. Rather than a student holding a beer while relaxing on a deck, how about the same student sitting on the drivers seat of a car (car door open, legs outside the car) with keys hanging on his belt and getting arrested for drunk driving?

The problem is that the photo only represents a single point in time and can’t give a complete frame of reference. The case here is that the police are using social media as a clue to what might be happening or where and following up with hands-on police work.

To me, while the situations seem similar (police using social media for crime prevention), the devil is in the details.

MN says:

This is a good thing?

I agree that it’s good that LEA aren’t blaming Twitter, but the government spying on it is not, unconditionally, a good thing. Like other forms of surveillance, Twitter snooping must be subject to oversight and transparency concerns, lest it be used for the wrong purposes. Welcoming police surveillance of Twitter or any other form of communication is like welcoming them to put a camera on you 24/7 and wait for you to accidentally break any one of the nation’s 10,000 laws (most of which are suspect or contradict other laws).

Peter says:

Re: This is a good thing?

I think the fundamental difference between this type of survalence and other types of ‘snooping’ is that Twitter/Facebook are public forums. I certainly have no expectation of privacy if I put a note on a neighbor’s door describing our mutual crime! Andd while Twitter/Facebook are not entirely public, the involvement of 3rd parties (friend-ed individuals) certainly makes it seem public to me!

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