Police Using New Crowdsourcing App; Critics Doubt It Will Do Much Good


A riot took place last month at the California beach town of Isla Vista when revelers turned violent, rocking cars, smashing windows and throwing rocks. Dozens were injured and about 50 people ended up in the hospital, including several police officers, reports the Associated Press. As authorities seek help with the investigation, they’re using a new online and mobile app that designers say was created specifically for this type of situation. “When the public really wants to catch these bad guys as badly as we do, this is the mechanism,” said Los Angeles Sheriff’s Commander Scott Edson, who helped devise the system after the Boston Marathon bombings. “They can help us by sending us pictures and video.”

The innovation, LEEDIR, the Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository, pairs an app with cloud storage to help police use smartphones as tools to gather evidence. Proponents say the crowdsourcing system gives authorities a secure, central repository for the countless electronic tips that can come in. Because it uses remote database servers that police access online, floods of data won’t cause system crashes or be expensive to store. Most agencies, Edson said, “don’t have lots of bandwidth lying around.” Privacy advocates criticize the app as overly broad, saying it subjects innocent people to police scrutiny and probably won’t produce much good evidence. “There’s a reason that we pay professionals to work in police departments,” said Nate Cardozo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “And there’s a reason we don’t crowdsource photo lineups and the like — crowds aren’t good at it.”

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