It’s great that NextDoor, the site for community conversation and more, wants to take actions to curb racial profiling, particularly when it comes to reporting of crimes or general sketchy behavior in neighborhoods. We can – and should – have a conversation about what that means and while I don’t think this solution is perfect it’s at least something, which is more than some sites are doing. What troubles me the most is how law enforcement agencies, particularly local police departments, are using the site to monitor for potential criminal activity. This is something NextDoor is super proud of and touts but I’m more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of the police actively monitoring any site, especially a hyper-local one like this.
That seems to me to be an all-too convenient foot in the door to more overt monitoring of any and all behavior. Posting from a party too late in the evening? The police will know. Sharing a picture of backyard fireworks? The police will know. The potential this opens up for neighbors informing on neighbors and using questionable behavior as an excuse to settle petty grievances seems all too apparent. To be fair, I have the same issue with Twitter, AT&T or any other company working with the NSA, FBI or other national agency but this one can hit home in a flash. I don’t want to sound like I’m encouraging illegal activities, but allowing law enforcement to view what people are posting or doing in a way that presumes a level of guilt is, I think, chilling.