SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The Anne Arundel Police Chief said an aggregator application, Geofeedia, helped them track potential threats on social media, a tool, that may have helped them prevent the Maryland shooting from happening. The same tool was used in San Diego.
"We lost a great tool with Geofeedia a couple years ago. It was the national conscience, decided that we weren't going to be able to use it. It made our job a lot easier as it relates to following things, phrases, areas on social media." Anne Arundel Police Chief Timothy Altomare said.
Geofeedia was an application agencies used with a fee. It searched for keywords and phrases, flagged the location and sent information to it's subscribers. The San Diego City Police as well as San Diego County Sheriff's had a subscription in 2016.
“Public Safety Purposes” means use of the SAAS Service by law enforcement to detect potential violent threats against the public if (i) acting at the behest of the event organizer to provide security; or (ii) during large public events if (a) the event has broad public access and impact (e.g. large sporting events, city marathons, concerts, academic or corporate conferences) and (b) the event is not political in nature (e.g. a protest, rally, community organizing meeting).
-Geofeedia Legal Agreement
The ACLU published an article in September of 2016, criticizing the application and policing methods, calling it "spying software."
And no agency produced a use policy that would limit how the tools were used and help protect civil rights and civil liberties.
The utter lack of transparency, accountability, and oversight is particularly troubling because social media surveillance software used by California law enforcement — tools like MediaSonar, X1 Social Discovery, and Geofeedia — are powerful. And our records from Fresno and several other communities reveal that some have been marketed in ways to target protesters.
Our records show that Geofeedia’s marketing materials, for instance, refer to unions and activist groups as “overt threats,” and suggest the product can be used in ways that target activists of color. At least 13 California law enforcement agencies have used or acquired Geofeedia.
In October of 2016, a source with the San Diego County Sheriff's told 10News Geofeedia was rendered useless. The department confirmed after the article was posted social media sites blocked these applications.
Lecturer at San Diego State University Wendy Patrick says, it's a balance, "We've gotta weigh personal privacy against national security and as you can imagine people are somewhat reluctant to give up too much of their personal information."
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said they did not renew their contract with Geofeedia when it expired.
"So many of today's mass shooters mass murderers have a digital footprint, the challenge for law enforcement is viewing it before the crime is committed," Patrick said.
10News reached out to the ACLU, they had no comment.