Walking The Digital Beat

As local police departments expand their reach on social media, companies are developing new data-mining tools to help them:

For instance, consider BlueJay, the “Law Enforcement Twitter Crime Scanner,” which provides real-time, geo-fenced access to every single public tweet so that local police can keep tabs on #gunfire, #meth, and #protest (yes, those are real examples) in their communities. …

Criminals do just come right out and tweet about their crimes, but BlueJay appears to be more useful as a way to “listen in” on people who would not ordinarily be talking to police. Used well, such tools should make police departments more aware of both local problems and complaints about their own work. Used less than well, it can be a bit creepy, sort of on par with having a kid’s uncle listen outside her bedroom during a slumber party. And used badly, it can make a nice tool for keeping an eye on critics/dissenters.