DPS uses Facebook to prepare for events

The focus of Monday’s monthly Dept. of Public Safety Student Affairs Council Forum was an incident involving a student who claims DPS followed him to an event and DPS’ use of social media outlets to prevent incidences around campus.

Max Hoiland, a senior majoring in cinema television and critical studies, expressed concerns about DPS officers, who he claimed followed him to an event earlier this semester. Hoiland said DPS officers brought a photo of him from his Facebook account to the event.

“They had a picture of me, and I found that pretty disturbing,” Hoiland said.

Though DPS Chief Carey Drayton was unable to deny the photo, he said Hoiland’s past actions had prompted some concerns.

“The concern was [Hoiland has], in the past, caused an interruption of the business operations of USC,” Drayton said.

Drayton told Hoiland that the officers were not at the event specifically because he was attending but because the event was controversial.

“Five officers weren’t there for [Hoiland],” Drayton said. “There was a lot of concern about that particular event.”

Drayton said DPS does use Facebook and other public information in preparation for events, particularly when they are controversial. Drayton also said DPS does not follow individual students.

“We don’t follow you around,” Drayton said. “I don’t have the resources to follow you around … when I’m worried about robberies and other things going on.”

At the start of the meeting, which was attended by 12 students, the creators of a mobile application for reporting safety concerns, That’s Suspicious Behavior, delivered a presentation.

The program, which is available for free on iPhones, allows anyone with a university email to anonymously report suspicious behavior. After the behavior is reported, it appears on a map of the university with a location and time for anyone to view on the app.

“It’s a virtual campus-watch asking students to help each other be safer,” said Brigette Kidd, a graduate student studying communication management, who had the idea for the application.

For now, Drayton said DPS is not monitoring the behavior reported with the application.

“We have limited resources so we can’t obligate resources just to watch a beta model or something we are trying out,” Drayton said.

Drayton said that could change, however, if there is a big push from students or other members of the community for DPS to monitor the application.

2 replies
  1. Max Hoiland
    Max Hoiland says:

    My political disagreements with USC policies, including its methods of surveillance and tracking of students, is nothing secret. I have become somewhat accustomed to DPS and administrators talking about me behind closed doors and tracking which events I attend on campus (the event in the article was not the first time this has happened). DPS has even approached a professor of mine who I was doing research with and questioned her about me and claimed I was breaking all kinds of school rules (I talked about these allegations with the head of Campus Activities, Heather Larabee, who is in charge of such things and said that I had not violated any rules as far as she could tell).

    DPS pays attention to me. Whatever. It’s kind of creepy but I don’t lose any sleep over it. However, what about other students on campus who are exploring politics and begin to express disagreement with the university? Might such surveillance and tracking intimidate them and have the effect of silencing them?

    There’s can be a thin line between “keeping students safe” and using security and surveillance in a way that represses student voices and I think DPS has crossed that line.

    I’ve talked with Chief Drayton about these issues 1-on-1 on multiple occasions and we have our disagreements, but I would like to point out that much of what I see as abusive or invasive behavior by DPS officers isn’t initiated by DPS themselves, but given to them as orders by administrators. My point in criticizing DPS practices here is to shed light on them and primarily to pressure the administration to step back and stop forcing DPS to do these things.

    “The ways in which the loss of privacy destroys a society are somewhat abstract and difficult to articulate, though very real. A society in which people know they are constantly being monitored is one that breeds conformism and submission, and which squashes innovation, deviation, and real dissent.” – Glenn Greenwald

  2. Max Hoiland
    Max Hoiland says:

    I’m glad that DPS’s use of social media to “watch out” for students at events has received this attention as it is a practice that I think takes surveillance too far. DPS claims that it does things to keep students safe, but as Chief Drayton said during the forum, the primary reason I am “of concern” to USC is that when I approach administrators about political issues on campus, they think I’m “one level below Satan” by virtue of approaching them and disagreeing with them at all.

    However, I was completely surprised to wake up this morning and find an article written about my relationship with DPS. My full name and major were not mentioned at the forum, so did the reporter ask DPS for them afterwards? There weren’t that many people at the event and I was sitting just a few feet from the reporter. As far as I can surmise, the reporter approached DPS for my name and information and perhaps further clarification but did not approach me. Why didn’t the reporter just do what reporters are supposed to do and talk to the people they’re writing articles about. It would not have taken more than 30 seconds to get my name and info and no more than 1 minute more to get a statement if he wanted one.

    The quotes from the article somewhat mischaracterize what was discussed at the forum. Clarification:

    -My relation with DPS was not “the focus” of the event, but one of many things discussed between students and DPS.

    -Secondly, the claim that I was ‘followed’ at the event needs further clarification. DPS doesn’t follow me around on facebook per se. They look at events on campus via facebook and see who’s attending, which I think is pretty creepy. From there, if there are any people that DPS has ‘red flagged’ in their system, they notify the officers attending the event, and in my case, print out a picture of me and give it to the officers. Drayton contended that this did not constitute “following”, but I would disagree. The fact is that DPS finds out where I will be, and then pre-emptively prints out pictures of me and distributes them to officers at events where they expect me to attend. This spatial connections between myself, the events I will be attending, and DPS’s showing up with prior knowledge of my attendance and a picture of me, in my mind is something very close to ‘following’.

    -The claim that DPS did have a picture of me at the event is something that Chief Drayton could not confirm or deny, as he either didn’t know about it or could easily deny it. However, the night of the event where DPS had the picture of me, I spoke to the supervising officer, Lieutenant James W. Farrington, for the shift and in front of me, one of the DPS officers told Farrington that indeed they did have a picture of me. Two of my friends were standing besides me during the course of this conversation and could easily confirm this point, and the picture itself was initially brought to my attention earlier in the night by two other friends who saw DPS holding the picture. That DPS had a picture that night is easily verifiable by numerous witnesses.

Comments are closed.