For at least one year, the Memphis Police Department (MPD) used software to track social media posts across the city, but it's not yet known if MPD still tracks social media users here.
Two years ago, the city of Memphis bought software from Geofeedia, the “market leader in location-based social media monitoring, intelligence and analysis.”
The software shows users a map of their area overlaid with pins showing who is posting what, to what social media platform they are posting, and what they are posting about (see photo above). The company cites customers like the NCAA, the 2012 London Olympic Games, the South Dakota Tourism Dept., the Mall of America, and, of course, “the public sector” (meaning mostly police, it seems).
A purchase order from the city of Memphis
shows it bought the software on Oct. 4, 2014 for $9,500. The description of the purchase is “social media monitoring software for investigative services as per specifications and insurance requirements.”
The bill and the software were sent from Chicago-based Geofeedia to Memphis Police Department (MPD) headquarters at 201 Poplar, according to purchase order.
MPD spokesman Louis C. Brownlee said Wednesday that the department used the service for one year and dropped it.
"It was a one-year subscription in 2014," Brownlee said in an email.
When asked how MPD used the technology, Brownlee resounded, "we used it for checking social media for public safety."
However, Brownlee has not yet responded to questions about how they tracked social media or whether or not the Memphis police still use a similar service to track social media users here.
Geofeedia tweeted a photo (below) on Oct. 28, 2014 from an event sponsored by the Tennessee Association of Law Enforcement Analysts (TALEA) and a post that read: "Listening to Memphis PD talk social media at TALEA #lesm #police #socialmedia"
The purchase of the software came to light here only after a tip to the Memphis Flyer
on Wednesday. Stories about Geofeedia being used in other cities have surfaced recently in Denver
Geofeedia was founded in 2011, according to its website. The company says its services are used “for corporate security and risk mitigation at large corporations, for situational awareness by government agencies, and to help sales and marketing companies discover trends and patterns.”
In the “public sector” portion of its website (one headlined “For the People”), the company says this:
“With public safety at stake, predicting, analyzing, and acting on social media conversations in real-time is a must. It’s not enough to just listen for keywords and hashtags – you can start with the locations that matter most to increase situational awareness, reduce response time, and assist first responders during community events.
“Only relying on keyword and hashtag listening means you are missing two thirds of social media activity. Add location-based intelligence to your social media data set to increase your community engagement.”
This story will be updated.