ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Analysis of Scrutability for Juridical Purposes

Use of Algorithmic Techniques for Law Enforcement

The state has often sought to regulate the use of social media to prevent law and order issues or suspected criminal activities. In the light of the possibility of such state regulation and surveillance, the proposed use of the technique of sentiment analysis of social media data to guide actions of law enforcement agencies merits close scrutiny. What needs urgent attention is the existing legal standard that must govern the actions by these agencies, and how, if at all, may this standard be applied when the law enforcement action comes to be informed by the use of such techniques.

​In July 2018, the Supreme Court of India agreed to hear a petition (Singh 2018) challenging the setting up of a social media communications hub by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (2018) to create digital profiles of citizens, ostensibly to gauge their opinions about official policies. Upon receipt of a notice from the Supreme Court and concerns raised by it about surveillance, the government withdrew the request for proposal and communicated its decision to not go ahead with the project (Hindustan Times 2018). However, there are several government agencies that already use social media analytics tools.

Over the last few years, a number of state and central government initiatives have been announced in India, which mandate the analysis of social media data for use by the police.1 Social media labs maintained by law enforcement agencies shall perform “public sentiment analysis” to “identify behavioural patterns, influences and advocates, track the change and increase in chatter and generate alerts in real time,” to enable the police “to take suitable action.” The analysis will “generate tags to classify posts and comments on social media into either negative or positive according to a note by the ­National Police Mission on use of the tool for surveillance for ­police departments. It can also track users’ devices and their locations and send ‘alerts’ to authorities depending on the criteria set by the authorities” (Srivastava 2018).

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Updated On : 9th Jun, 2020

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