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UC Davis police using software to track students' social media posts

UC Davis among campuses using a program to monitor students on social media
UC Davis among campuses using a program to monitor students on social media 01:39

DAVIS — An investigation by The Dallas Morning News revealed UC Davis is among several schools across the country using social media-monitoring software to keep track of students' online posts.

UC Davis told CBS13 that the software is not meant to snoop on students' weekend plans; instead, they are using the software to be notified of any students at risk of harming themselves or others.

"We truly are not here to prevent [students] from experiencing college life," Lt. Joanne Zekany with the UC Davis PD said. "Unfortunately, at this time, there's a lot of mental health issues that are happening. Our goal really is to try to be proactive."

The software is called "Detect." The technology uses A.I. to scan social media posts.

The Dallas Morning News reports that "Detect" can also allow campus police to surveil student protests. The surveillance strikes a chord with UC Davis students as they remember the impact of an incident over a decade ago. In 2011, student protesters with the Occupy movement were pepper-sprayed by campus police.

The widely circulated video shook up students on campus, leading the president of the University of California system to call for an assessment of law enforcement procedures on its campuses.

UC Davis police say they are not using the software to monitor student protests; they say their priority is to use the software to keep students safe.

Lt. Zekany told CBS13 that alerts from the software have helped them intervene in several cases, especially those in which students post online about self-harm.

"Because we've had those cases...had we not had this platform to help us, who knows what the outcome could have potentially been?" Zekany said.

CBS13 asked students on campus about their feelings about the surveillance program and many did not know it existed.

Some students say they feel as though the software is an invasion of their privacy; however, Zekany says UC Davis Police only use the program to monitor already public social media posts.

She says they do not monitor private messages or emails using the platform.

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