T&T Guardian -Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young says with the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice’s (TTPS) new so­cial me­dia sur­veil­lance pro­gramme, those who hide be­hind ‘fake’ ac­counts to com­mit crimes will be brought to jus­tice.

Young made the com­ment dur­ing the Stand­ing Fi­nance Com­mit­tee’s de­bate on the Ap­pro­pri­a­tion Bill for the fi­nan­cial year 2020 in Par­lia­ment.

At the time, Young was re­spond­ing to ques­tions posed by Op­po­si­tion MP for Na­pari­ma Rod­ney Charles.

The TTPS was al­lo­cat­ed ap­prox­i­mate­ly $2.6 bil­lion in the 2020 Bud­get and from this, $25 mil­lion is ex­pect­ed to be spent to cre­ate a cen­tre with the ca­pac­i­ty to mon­i­tor and analyse so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­i­ty with sur­veil­lance equip­ment. This new ini­tia­tive was doc­u­ment­ed in the Pub­lic Sec­tor In­vest­ment Plan (PSIP) laid in Par­lia­ment along with oth­er Bud­get doc­u­ments on Oc­to­ber 7. 

In Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, Charles said there have been sev­er­al con­cerns raised by the pub­lic since the an­nounce­ment that the po­lice will be mon­i­tor­ing so­cial me­dia.

When Young was asked to elab­o­rate on how the $25m will be used, he said, “As you and every so­phis­ti­cat­ed so­ci­ety recog­nis­es, with the ad­vent of so­cial me­dia there is a lot of ev­i­dence and a lot of in­tel­li­gence on so­cial me­dia.

For ex­am­ple, those en­gaged in gang ac­tiv­i­ty, some­times they like to share a lot of the ac­tiv­i­ties that they are par­tic­i­pat­ing in and plan­ning on so­cial me­dia and the po­lice ser­vice has recog­nised there is a need to step up and to in­crease their ca­pa­bil­i­ty of mon­i­tor­ing what is on so­cial me­dia from a crim­i­nal per­spec­tive.”

Young said the po­lice will al­so mon­i­tor on­line ac­tiv­i­ty re­lat­ed to child pornog­ra­phy and hu­man traf­fick­ing.

He said the pub­lic would al­so be sur­prised at the num­ber of peo­ple who use so­cial me­dia to sell drugs and guns.

Charles said most of the pub­lic con­cern about the cen­tre was fo­cused on the in­va­sion of pri­va­cy of cit­i­zens.

While Young gave the as­sur­ance that the TTPS would use the Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dures and be gov­erned by the In­ter­cep­tion of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Act (IO­CA), he said those who think they can hide be­hind so­cial me­dia should think twice.

“The as­sur­ance that I can give is once per­sons don’t break the law and don’t en­gage in crim­i­nal­i­ty they have noth­ing to be wor­ried about. If peo­ple are hid­ing and do­ing crim­i­nal acts be­hind what they be­lieve are fake pro­files and the po­lice are able to go be­hind that and find out who the re­al per­pe­tra­tors are, so be it, then suf­fer the con­se­quences of your crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ty,” Young said.

He al­so said on so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Face­book and In­sta­gram, once an in­di­vid­ual’s pro­file is pub­lic the is­sue of in­va­sion of pri­va­cy does not arise. 

Charles al­so asked about a $25m al­lo­ca­tion for mo­bile de­vices, ques­tion­ing what it would be used for oth­er than so­cial me­dia track­ing.

Young said the mon­ey will be used to pur­chase mo­bile track­ing sys­tems, poly­graph equip­ment, pub­lic or­der equip­ment: in­clud­ing tasers, pep­per spray, can­is­ter grenades, rub­ber ba­tons and ri­ot gear.

He said sur­veil­lance sys­tems and tablets for TTPS ve­hi­cles to fa­cil­i­tate a di­rect cam­era feed to the Com­mand Cen­tre would al­so be pur­chased. 

He said CoP Gary Grif­fith has full con­trol of how these al­lo­ca­tions are used as stip­u­lat­ed by Sec­tion 123A of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Young al­so ex­plained that out of the $70m al­lo­cat­ed for the TTPS to pur­chase new ve­hi­cles, a bomb dis­pos­al unit is on the cards. This is in ad­di­tion to the new Sport Util­i­ty Ve­hi­cles (SU­Vs), sedans – both marked and un­marked- bus­es for com­mu­ni­ty polic­ing, ar­moured per­son­nel car­ri­ers and ri­ot con­trol ve­hi­cles.