Critics say the surveillance program spying on kids through social media accounts is setting a dangerous precedent, increasing the surveillance of children and expanding the role of police in schools. School officials say the surveillance program was meant to keep students safe.
For four years, more than 700 children in Chicago have been called in to talk with authorities based on their social media activity. The surveillance program is part of a $2.2 million grant the district received through the US Department of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative.
Most students and parents were never told about the program or that school officials would be taking on a greater role in monitoring students.
The grant provided for two intelligence analysts and monitoring software to analyze students’ online conversations. Funding for the program ran out after 2018, but Chicago officials said they plan to continue the surveillance program.
The grant paid for the use of a surveillance software called Dunami, which has been used in the past by the FBI and the Department of Defense. It helps the user to map out human networks based on social media activity.
The surveillance program expanded the role of a police unit called the Gang School Safety Team. After a shooting of a student, a team of cops would go to the victim’s school. With the newer program, cops started going to schools even before anything happened.
Some opponents of the program point out that this kind of program can lead to over policing, a virtual stop and frisk that disproportionately targets people of color. The program has grown to cover 25,000 students.