Halifax police shop for social media-scanning software

Police in Halifax are shopping for software designed to search social media for clues that could help in investigations - a type of tool already used by many other police forces.

Force looking for new software to help in investigations

Halifax police want to be able to systematically search social media for clues that could help investigations. (The Canadian Press)

Police in Halifax are shopping for a new piece of software designed to search social media for clues that could help in investigations.

The force issued a tender last week for new software to skim Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Lauri Stevens, a Boston-based social media strategist who works with law enforcement agencies, said in the last two years, more tools have become available for police.

"It's remarkable, actually, how much people put out there about what their activities are,” she said.

Different software packages can search, monitor and capture information in a format public prosecutors can use.

"Packaging it for court cases is what the commercial tools don't really do, and so these law enforcement tools take great care to make sure that they can prove the way the data was captured is indeed how it existed on the web,” said Stevens.

When it comes to privacy concerns, Stevens points out that police “can't get at any information that isn't out there in the open."

Police in other Canadian cities are already sharpening their social media investigation skills.

Vancouver police investigators said they monitored thousands of photos and videos online after the 2011 Stanley Cup riot.

The Toronto Police Service has already implemented social media monitoring software.

“Social media is a great way to reach the public for both community engagement and then the public expects that you're going to be able to be in a position to actually capture digital evidence if there's evidence out there of a crime,” said Toronto Const. Scott Mills, the force’s social media officer.

“They also expect you to be able to prevent a crime using social media.”

According to the request for proposal, police in Halifax are interested in the software for a range of investigations, including cases that involve bullying, protests and hostage situations.