Social media monitoring helps law enforcement prevent crime - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Social media monitoring helps law enforcement prevent crime

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

There is a new crop of companies that are actively searching public social media sites. They mine them for information and look for trigger words that allow them to possibly prevent certain crimes.

A company called GeoCop notified Tempe police this past Monday after Twitter posts from a Marco de Niza High School student were flagged by the company's software.

The student, a junior, threatened to shoot the school. Employees at GeoCop looked through other messages and pictures and then decided to tip off Tempe police.

"[GeoCop] provided us with the information, the Twitter account, the name that was being used and the school that was being targeted," said Tempe Sgt. Michael Pooley.

"They provided us all that to us and we were able to talk to this kid and make contact," he continued.

GeoCop is owned by a company called HMS Technologies. Its vice president of technologies, Carter Craft, says the software continually monitors sites, but only ones that are public.

"We simply search all publicly available social media data that is put out," said Craft.

"All the monitoring is done through very specific geographic area," he continued.

Ken Colburn with Data Doctors says this type of monitoring is relatively new, and it will only increase.

"The days of privacy, especially when it comes to the internet, are long gone," said Colburn.

He says there is really no private information when it comes to what's posted online.

"Everything on the internet is completely accessible. It's monitored every second," stated Colburn.

GeoCop's software costs about $150 per month per computer. No Valley police department has a contract with any social media monitoring company.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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