NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young yesterday supported Commissioner of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith’s statement about the police monitoring and analysing social media activity using surveillance systems. Young expressed his support during the Standing Finance Committee meeting in the House of Representatives.
According to Young, social media can provide the police with critical intelligence in the fight against crime.
He said some criminals openly boast about their activities through various social media. Young also said criminals use social media to sell drugs, guns and other contraband.
He said this is why there is a need to step up and monitor activity on social media. While some people claim police surveillance of social media constitute an invasion of privacy, Young explained, “ The question of invasion of privacy on social media does not arise.”
Observing that all social media accounts are accessible to the public, Young said, “Once they are public accounts, there can be no cry of invasion of privacy.”
He also said under the Interception of Communications Act, the CoP, TT Defence Force chief of staff and the Strategic Services Agency director are the only people who can authorise an interception of communication. Young reiterated, “Once people don’t engage in criminal activity, they have nothing to fear.”
He also said people will not be able to hide behind fake social media profiles and engage in criminal activity. Young said once the police expose these people, they will be dealt with in accordance with the law. Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie asked Young if criminal gang leaders and gang members were under surveillance. Young replied, “Criminals who require surveillance are being surveilled.” He declared no one should expect him to reveal such information in public.
On questions raised by Naparima MP Rodney Charles about a $30 million allocation which allows the police to purchase vehicles such as armoured personnel carriers, Young opined the police should “get some more paddywagons and more comfortable ones as well.”
Government MPs expressed surprise when Charles claimed that no one in the Opposition ever met with data mining firm Cambridge Analytica.
Young and Finance Minister Colm Imbert also said efforts have been made to ensure that the police receive their allocations in a timely manner. Imbert recalled that arrangements were made the police’s entire allocation for goods and services for fiscal 2019 to be released to them.
Imbert said the allocation to the police for fiscal 2020 has increased by $200 million. He also praised Griffith for reducing the police’s overtime from $375 million to $318 million per year. With the police planning to do a number of increased operations, Young said Griffith has planned to ensure that events such as upcoming local government and general elections meetings are well policed.