An online surveillance tool that enabled hundreds of U.S. law enforcement agencies to track and collect information on social media users was also marketed for use in American public schools, the Daily Dot has learned.
Geofeedia sold surveillance software typically bought by police to a high school in a northern Chicago suburb, less than 50 miles from where the company was founded in 2011. An Illinois school official confirmed the purchase of the software by phone on Monday.
In the fall of 2014, the Lincolnshire-Prairie School District paid Geofeedia $10,000 to monitor the social media posts of children at Adlai E. Stevenson High School.
“We did have for one year a contract with Geofeedia,” said Jim Conrey, a spokesperson for Lincolnshire-Prairie School District. “We were mostly interested in the possibility of trying to prevent any kind of harm, either that students would do to themselves or to other students.”
Conrey said the district simply wanted to keep its students safe. “It was really just about student safety; if we could try to head off any potential dangerous situations, we thought it might be worth it,” he said.
Ultimately, the school found little use for the platform, which was operated by police liaison stationed on school grounds, and chose not to renew its subscription after the first year, citing cost and a lack of actionable information. “A lot of kids that were posting stuff that we most wanted, they weren’t doing the geo-tagging or making it public,” Conrey said. “We weren’t really seeing a lot there.”