Social media is gaining popularity today as a law enforcement tool. In addition to traditional law enforcement techniques, such as wiretaps, such monitoring may also help discover leads and track criminals. While recently several law enforcement agencies have begun relying more on such tools, many others have not yet gotten on board of this trend.
Social Media Monitoring Tools
It is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of tools.
- One type of tool is a search engine that users can use to search the full text from the posts on numerous platforms and/or blogs. It ensures users query information in real time or conduct searches over time periods.
- Another type of tracking tools gives users an opportunity to monitor and be notified when specific keywords or phrases, or certain words are used in the social media. As it’s usually done, updates are sent to the user’s email account when there is an activity related to a particular keyword. This kind of tool can also be bundled with other tracking tools.
- The third type of the tool does not search for keywords or phrases but rather monitors whether a given person is writing posts related to certain words during a time period or about a particular topic in general.
Those from police who have limited resources or budget constraints consider such tools for basic monitoring. For those who have more resources and time restraints, search engine and keyword-based tracking may be most cost effective tools for investigating cases.
In addition to searching for keywords, these tools allow law enforcement government agencies to receive alerts when there are bursts in network activity. This can be particularly helpful for finding leads in child exploitation cases, monitoring a person’s movements during an investigation, or tracking the popularity of certain topics.
Sophisticated tools that track people’s movements and publicize certain posts require additional investigation resources.
Below are Some of Social Media Monitoring Services
- Talkwalker – is a search engine that simultaneously searches for mentions on different sites and aggregates the results.
- Reputology – This tool combines search engines, keyword aggregation, and monitoring tools into one. It provides users with real-time alerts and allows them to filter the results according to specific keywords.
- NetBase – Alerts allow users to receive an email when there are bursts in activity related to their keyword or topic, such as an increase in tweets, Facebook posts, etc. It can monitor up to three different topics per account. Users can monitor each of these topics separately or all three at the same time. It has both free and premium versions, which includes an additional keyword. Free version provides basic alerts whereas premium version provides alert notifications on keywords, topics, or hashtags related to the social accounts.
- Synthesio – this tool allows users to monitor keywords from all popular platforms at the same time (applicable to Twitter, Facebook, blogs and others). Synthesio also monitors updates on such platforms as YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn. It provides users with real-time notifications regarding keywords and topics related to their account in order to keep them updated on those topics.
- Brandwatch – is a monitoring tool for brands, which automatically tracks mentions from around multiple platforms and provides alerts on keywords or trends related to the brand. They also have an app to monitor the brand’s activity, as well as check out trends within the company.
- Mentionlytics – is a tool that provides a chronological list of queries that have been run across different platforms. They automatically parse the results from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and send out alerts.
- ReviewTrackers – this service offers users the observation of their competitors and finding out what kind of SMM they’re using so they can learn from them.
- ReputationDefender – is a monitoring tool for brand reputation management, which can scan networks and blogs to determine connections between websites or bloggers and brands in real time.
- Scoop.it – This tool allows users to follow up several platforms (such as Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter) with the help of keywords and search engines. Users can also create profiles to monitor specific topics.
- Sysomos – Besides controlling keywords, this tool also monitors specific people. It is most frequently used by law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations based on the location of certain individuals and their interests, such as gang activity.
- Brand24 – This tool is helpful in creating social profiles to monitor certain keywords. The tool also sends real-time updates when certain keywords appear in a particular platform.
- Falcon Social – is useful conversations analysis in social media.
- Radian 6 – is a monitoring tool for mentions of specific entities on various social platforms. Radian 6 provides information about who mentioned an entity and what was said. Users can also receive alerts when there are spikes in conversation about an entity or certain words associated with it on various platforms. A major limitation of Radian 6 is that only one topic or keyword can be searched at a time.
Privacy Concerns and Other Challenges
Privacy issues may be one of the key concerns regarding social media tracking. Several states have enacted legislation that limits its use as evidence against a party, particularly when it involves the use of private information from personal accounts (such as Facebook). Some states, such as California, have enacted legislation that provides individuals with the right to request the deletion of their data (such as posts) if they feel that it is not relevant to a particular investigation. Some states also provide individuals with the right to obtain a copy of their data.
Law enforcement agencies can face challenges when investigating cases involving minors or children. The use of these software tools can trigger a child exploitation investigation if it can be determined that the person is engaging in sexual activity over the internet.
Thus, some networking tools may require additional resources and investigative expertise to handle these inquiries.
Monitoring of social media will go on growing in popularity due to its widespread use in our society. That’s why, government entities may develop and apply more sophisticated tools for conducting online surveillance. Further legislation may also be enacted that would limit or expand the use of scanning by police and other agencies.