Nextdoor Is Courting Cops And Public Officials Using All-Expenses-Paid Trips To Its Headquarters

from the lobbying-for-a-worse-America dept

A COP IN EVERY HOUSE: that's the American dream. Maybe they can't enter the home, what with the Fourth Amendment and all, but they can be invited to every online get-together thrown by apps that promise neighborhood unity while asking law enforcement to get in on the action.

Ring, Amazon's doorbell/camera company, has made the relationship between neighborhood "sharing" and law enforcement explicit. It's right there in the term sheets. While Ring takes the PR reins to steer the official discourse, it's offering cops steeper discounts on Ring cameras they can hand out to citizens in exchange for pushing citizens to sign up for Neighbors, Ring's snitch app. Once attached to the app, Ring makes sharing of camera footage seamless and encourages homeowners to report suspicious people and activities. Unsurprisingly, many of the suspicious people reported are minorities.

It's not just Ring and Neighbors, as Citylab has discovered. Nextdoor -- a hyperlocal Facebook clone (and hotbed of bigotry) -- is courting cops as forcibly silenced partners in its plans to increase its user base.

Charles Husted, the chief of police in Sedona, Arizona, couldn’t contain his excitement. He had just been accepted into the Public Agencies Advisory Council for Nextdoor, the neighborhood social networking app.

“You’re the best!!! A great Christmas present,” he wrote in a December email to Parisa Safarzadeh, Government Relations Manager for Nextdoor.com Inc., obtained by CityLab through a public records request.

The invitation was too good to turn down: an all expenses paid trip to Nextdoor's headquarters in San Francisco. The company covered the costs for all invitees. In exchange for their participation, Nextdoor picked up the estimated $16,900 tab. And it swore participants to silence with a non-disclosure agreement.

Unfortunately for Nextdoor, this doesn't cover public records, which is what Citylab used to uncover this unseemly relationship between the social media company and US law enforcement. Chief Husted has no regrets -- or at least none he's willing to share publicly, possibly because of the NDA he signed. From what he can see, this isn't questionable. It's just a step in the right direction.

Husted says that leaning on social media — not just Nextdoor, but also Facebook or Twitter — in the line of duty is an inevitability of the current age. “It’s naive to think as public safety folks that we can keep doing our work the same as we have for years and years,” he said. “We have to evolve with the times, and the times have to do with social media: That’s where our communities are at. We have to find a way to be there too.”

He's right. Social media can't be ignored. But Nextdoor isn't inviting anyone from its largest group of stakeholders: members of the public. Instead, it's paying for government employees and officials to travel to San Francisco to hear its pitch for greater government involvement in a private company's communications platform. Nextdoor may claim to be connecting locals with each other, but its efforts are focused on roping in the people who are supposed to be serving its users: public servants.

Robbie Turner, a senior city strategist with Nextdoor, wrote to Husted that when expanding Nextdoor’s reach to Canada, the company was using “the same strategy we used when we first launched in the U.S. — recruit the major Police Departments and have them help us grow membership and engagement quickly.”

That's the bottom line: bumps in usage and users. Turning public entities into tools of corporations is seldom a good idea and it's certainly a bad idea when Nextdoor's user base appears to be willing to turn themselves into snitches at the drop of a hyperlink. If cops want to break bias patterns, they need to steer clear of unsubstantiated reports from biased Nextdoor users. Instead, Nextdoor is encouraging police to embrace the platform and all the problems inherent in its "see something, say something" nudges.

As for other public officials who took advantage of Nextdoor's all-expense-paid offer, they're having a problem seeing a problem with any of this. Never mind the optics. Officials want everyone to focus only on the letter of the law, which contains enough loopholes to drive an entire junket through.

Several public officials who were part of the Public Agencies Advisory Council say that the trip didn’t conflict with any city policies. Lara Foss, a corporate communications marketing consultant for the City of Austin, told CityLab that since the trip was work-related, it did not violate the city’s gift policy. Sedona’s Husted also said there were no endorsement regulations that prohibited him from participating. Katie Nelson, social media and public relations coordinator for the Mountain View Police Department in California, said that because the city’s policy prohibits taking paid trips on clocked time, she took a few days off from work to participate in the San Francisco meet-up.

Being wined and dined on a corporate tab makes people more receptive to their pitches. Everyone knows this. And that's why nearly everyone thinks things like this reek of buying off cops and politicians. Everyone, that is, but the cops and politicians being seduced by a whirlwind trip to a tech company's headquarters.

Once the dirty has been done, it's time to let what happened at Nextdoor HQ stay at Nextdoor HQ. This isn't so much a slogan as it is an existential lawsuit threat. Shut up, says Nextdoor, or it will be more than an un-invite to future events. It will be your proverbial ass in a litigation sling. Public officials owe a duty of transparency to their constituents. But Nextdoor is appending a whole lot of asterisks to the duties of public officials. The exceptions include a completely separate arm of the government.

In the terms of Nextdoor’s NDA, advisory council members are not allowed to release public statements about the partnership without the consent of Nextdoor, nor are they able to follow a court order to disclose any information deemed confidential by Nextdoor without alerting the company first.

And Nextdoor has made it easy for its snitchiest users to bring the government in on conversations other Nextdoor users might have thought were private. The platform can't allow users to file actual police reports but it does give users an option to screw other users over. A feature called "Forward to Police" allows users to send copies of private conversations to officers monitoring accounts. This feature is activated by police departments themselves, so those willing to further demonstrate their indifference for the people they serve can give people an one-click solution for all their snitching needs.

Sure, any participant in a private conversation could take screenshots and hand them to law enforcement. Removing the minimal tech hurdles, however, encourages people to use this option anytime they come across something that bothers them. It's a "speak to the manager" button, but one that potentially involves government-blessed use of deadly force. If people don't even have to leave their chairs to engage in SWATting-adjacent activities, they won't. Giving them a button just increases the chance someone's going to get hurt or killed.

At the end of the day, it's problematic all over. Public officials are endorsing a platform that paid to have them feel good about it -- both by covering their trip to San Francisco and by giving them the impression they are doing something to make their communities better by making them members of a private company's "Public Advisory Council."

Filed Under: law enforcement, nextdoor, police, social media, surveillance
Companies: nextdoor


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 3:44am

    Cops DONT MATTER! White privileged racists don't MATTER! NOTHING MATTERS but REPENTING for the CENTURIES of INJUSTICE at the hands of COPS and WHITE COPS and WHITE PEOPLE oppressing NIGGERS! GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND APOLOGIZE FOR CENTURIES OF WHITE PRIVILEGE BURN NEW YORK! BURN LA!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 4:24am

    In times where school districts are reevaluating their in school police officer contracts due to the rampant police violence, one has to ask whether such an investment is wise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Upstream (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:26am

    “It’s naive to think as public safety folks that we can keep doing our work the same as we have for years and years,” he said.

    If only this meant something vastly different from what he intended.

    Turning public entities into tools of corporations is seldom a good idea

    And turning corporations into tools of public entities, which is also happening, sometimes concurrently, is also a very bad idea. It turns them both into tools, in the worst colloquial sense of the word.

    In the terms of Nextdoor’s NDA, advisory council members are not allowed to release public statements about the partnership without the consent of Nextdoor, nor are they able to follow a court order to disclose any information deemed confidential by Nextdoor without alerting the company first.

    Another of many examples of NDAs and contract clauses attempting to usurp or circumvent the law. This is a dangerous trend.

    An anecdotal datapoint: A few years ago I got an invitation to Nextdoor, in the form of a flyer hung on my mailbox. I had not heard of Nextdoor, so I did some cursory Internet research. I was quickly overwhelmed by the bad reviews, some of the worst reviews of anything I have ever read. Not that I read all that many reviews of anything, but the anti-Nextdoor sentiment was very strong. The reviews gave me the impression that Nextdoor was a cesspool that made the worst of Facebook smell like an aromatherapy candle. YMMV, but I doubt it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:31am

      Re:

      You are obviously a White Boy! Get on our KNEES and apologize to Every Black Man or Woman or ( you know ) ALL OF US! EVERY SEX! But BLACK! You have White Privilege! GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:38am

        Re: Re:

        Your gramophone record is scratched.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Where do you live, Mr. Cunningham? We can have 4 AntiFa agents dressed in black there is 30 minutes or less to explain to you our demands, in person. You will respect us. I guarantee that. Or you will suffer the same fate as downtown (any city you know). We're comin' for ya.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:07am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I despise rioters and looters as much as you do, but your heavy-handed sarcasm was enough the first time.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Aw, cute, Hamilton learned to fuck with his IP address.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Rocky, 5 Jun 2020 @ 7:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Anyone who uses the word "demand" and then follows up with "respect" is just another nutjob that only deserve scorn and ridicule.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 8:47am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            We're comin' for ya.

            I don't think that's a good idea. I live in a state with castle doctrine.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            TFG, 5 Jun 2020 @ 9:16am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            For someone who claims to be Antifa, you sure do threaten fascist tactics.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2020 @ 12:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "We can have 4 AntiFa agents dressed in black there is 30 minutes or less to explain to you our demands, in person."

            I sort of doubt that. The cure against risking violence at the hands of citizens opposing fascist assholes is simple; Don't be a fascist asshole. I mean not too long ago the guys working the Very Fine People over would be members of the US army. Drink that in for a minute - if you can actually look at factual history without your head exploding over it.

            Now, Baghdad Bob, I realize that you are getting upset you can't use the N-word to define black people anymore and it must be crushing for you that black people being considered equal means there won't be anyone you can look down on anymore.

            But don't you think that at this point it might be a lot simpler to pull yourself out of the gutter than to go that extra mile just to try to drag other people down to your own level?

            Because I have to tell you - your repetitive falsetto hysterics where you pretend to be a "member of an organization dedicated to fighting fascists" out to establish gang rule and racketeering...it's not working. No one outside of the deluded stormfront neo-nazis are going to fall for that.

            Because being against fascism isn't criminal, nor is it "terrorist". It is, in fact, for the vast majority of the citizenry, a very good thing. Against the understanding that anti-fascism is a good thing your implication that this is what black people do more than others isn't, perhaps, the message you meant to send.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 7:45am

        Re: Re:

        You are obviously an utter fuckwit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Code Monkey (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:30am

    Parts of that NDA sound unenforcable

    "....nor are they able to follow a court order to disclose any information deemed confidential by Nextdoor without alerting the company first."

    How can a private company compel an individual NOT to follow a court order????

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:33am

      Re: Parts of that NDA sound unenforcable

      A Court Order?! You are another privileged white or brown Asshole (not black) that needs to Get down on his/her KNEES! If you understand the law, and orders, and confidentiality agreements, you are CORRUPT! We are going to BURN DOWN YOUR HOUSE and GROW A NEW CIVILIZATION from the ASHES of your HOME and your FAMILY! BURN BABY BURN, JUST LIKE TIM SAID!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 7:46am

        Re: Re: Parts of that NDA sound unenforcable

        The capslock is strong in this one.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2020 @ 12:37am

          Re: Re: Re: Parts of that NDA sound unenforcable

          "The capslock is strong in this one."

          Can't blame him. A black man became president. A woman stood as candidate. Someone may have informed him that, in fact, Hitler was the bad guy in the last world war. A white cop murdered a black man and both black and white people rose in outrage.

          He's been tossing his cookies while hollering in falsetto hysterics on every comment thread around here about how black people will kill and eat everyone of us in a global conspiracy racket. Not any different than what he's brought to the table around here for years, really.

          By now I'm not even sure whether he's trying (and failing) to sound like an "anti-fascist" activist or trying (and failing even harder) to bring what he thinks is happening as sarcasm.

          What he does succeed in, every time, is demonstrating the mindset of the Very Fine People to every reader around because he still hasn't realized that this isn't his usual Stormfront echo chamber.

          The fail is strong in him. The capslock is just the nerf-lightsaber he keeps swinging at people.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TFG, 5 Jun 2020 @ 9:18am

      Re: Parts of that NDA sound unenforcable

      The reading that might make this pass muster is that they simply have to tell Nextdoor they're following the court order, prior to disclosing the information ordered by the court.

      Whether that's how things would actually shake out, I have no idea, and, of course, IANAL.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:52am

    A COP IN EVERY HOUSE: that's the American dream. Maybe they can't enter the home, what with the Fourth Amendment and all

    Or the third amendment, if we're talking about forcing them to live in our homes…

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Barack Obama, 5 Jun 2020 @ 5:58am

      Re:

      You want to hear a dream? I have a dream! I was President Before Trump! I will be President Again! Of a New America! An America that my (gorilla in high heels and lipstick) wife will be PROUD OF! FUCK THE CONSTITUTION! FUCK AMENDMENTS! FUCK WHITEY! I AM GOD! I AM KING! I AM COMING BACK! BURN BABY BURN! IF YOU WANT IT TO STOP BURNING TAKE ME BACK! TAKE ME BACK! I AM KING OF AMERICA FOREVER! (with Michelle, of course, she's VERY important too)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re:

        Your sad attempts at implication and mockery, unfortunately, sound just like Trump. You aren't good at this, but then so few of your ilk are. You just out yourself and what an awful human being you are even more.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2020 @ 12:41am

        Re: Re:

        Look, the adults are talking, Baghdad Bob.

        The topic is a third amendment issue. Your usual hysteric holler of "But Obama!" is, as usual, not a relevant argument any more than it is when what is being debated is food, drugs, military, other police issues, or contemporary politics.

        Apparently the typical white supremacist has such a small mind they can't even wrap it around more than a single battlecry every ten years...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:01am

    What's this? They took an all expenses paid trip to San Francisco, and signed a non-disclosure agreement?

    What ever happened to "see something, say something?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:02am

    Catching thieves and vandals is a major good.

    Also, having the facts behind an alleged assault.

    But exclusionary rules could be negotiated for things that are not law enforcement's business, or shouldn't be (eg victimless offenses).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:25am

      Re: Catching thieves and vandals is a major good.

      You seem like a reasonable fellow. Sorry if my sarcasm was too heavy handed. What do you think about the laws in New York City that makes police immediately release criminals, rioters, arsonists and thieves, in this current climate of emergency, day after day. Don't you think it a little self-defeating, from the point of view of normal law abiding citizens?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 7:56am

        Re: Re: Catching thieves and vandals is a major good.

        It's the part of the law where those people should never have been arrested in the first place as the cops had no cause.

        When the cops actually care to catch someone who did commit property damage or theft, they can hold them if they are charged and don't later post bail.

        But they aren't interested in that. They want to disrupt protests and news coverage. And apparently people on their own property for no reason as well.

        So, how would you answer your own question?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:50am

    Screw Corporate Sovereignty and their NDA's

    It should be illegal for public officials to sign an NDA when it has impact on their official duties, even tangentially. The hubris of the Nextdoor NDA forbidding public officials from following court orders without notifying them first is an indication of why this should be clearly stated, by legislation, to be illegal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:53am

      Re: Screw Corporate Sovereignty and their NDA's

      FLM! BLM! FTP! FTP! WAKE UP TO THE NEW AMERICA! GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES, WHITEY!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 9:08am

        Re: Re: Screw Corporate Sovereignty and their NDA's

        Just because you enjoy being on your knees doesn't mean jack, Hamilton. Now wipe the Shiva off your mouth, nobody needs to see that.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 9:32am

        Cool impersonation of what a White person thinks a “Black revolutionary” sounds like, Hamilton.

        Then again, maybe it isn’t an impersonation.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Jun 2020 @ 12:50am

          Re:

          "Then again, maybe it isn’t an impersonation."

          Well, no. It's what a white supremacist would think a black man sounds like. Let's not be too hard on the Very Fine People though. Most of them are still reeling over the news that the bad guy in world war 2 was Hitler. Beati pauperes spiritu and all that.

          That said Baghdad Bob is starting to slip. I think I've spotted almost a dozen comments in the usual steaming heaps of shit he usually shovels onto this poor defenseless forum, where he actually failed to include that one single desperate cry of "But Obama!" which he keeps considering the final, unassailable argument, for some reason.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Code Monkey (profile), 5 Jun 2020 @ 6:33pm

        Re: Re: Screw Corporate Sovereignty and their NDA's

        Wow. You're going to have one helluva headache when the meth wears off, bro.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2020 @ 7:33am

      Re: Screw Corporate Sovereignty and their NDA's

      ^This. Came here to say the same thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 6 Jun 2020 @ 4:29pm

      Re: Screw Corporate Sovereignty and their NDA's

      'You're allowed to follow court orders only so far as they don't conflict with our orders.' does rather nicely expose that a company believes that they have greater power and authority than the courts.

      NDA's like that should certainly be illegal, but until that happens judges need to bring the hammer down hard on any department that tries that, making clear that they either give the court's orders higher priority or they can enjoy a contempt of court charge and then follow the court's orders.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    the hair stylish (profile), 6 Jun 2020 @ 5:35am

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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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