Soveillance: Social Media Surveillance

Chatisfaction, Inc. ad for Soveillance, social media spying software

Soveillance: Social Media Surveillance
by Sue Basko

Update October 12. 2013:  I am so sorry to report that Michael Pike, the owner of Chatisfaction and creator of many apps, passed away recently.  He was just 40 years old and leaves behind his children and family and friends.  Michael was very forthright in answering my questions.  He seemed like a very intelligent man and an earnest entrepreneur.  Losing him is a great loss to the world of the internet and computers.  My condolences to his family and friends and co-workers.

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Soveillance, a product of Chatisfaction, Inc., a Nevada corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A., is used to automatically surveil the social media of others.  It is marketed to 3 target consumers: Families, Corporations, and Government entities.  Michael Pike is CEO of Chatisfaction, Inc.

For greater insight and to make your own assessment, please see the brochure pages below.

The Family product is used to spy on other family members.  It seems to require the social media account name and  password.  It searches for words in context, so apparently has more than just word recognition.  Of course, this is marketed as a way to know if one's child is being bullied or is suicidal, or is bullying.

Analysis and Commentary: Parents should not be spying on their kids, but rather, should maintain good communication.  Spying on children is disrespectful. Children are harmed by having a parent who does not respect personal boundaries.  If a child learns the parent is routinely spying on them,  trust will be forever lost.  Also, using such techniques sets up a child to accept a surveillance state.  If a parent needs to -- or even wants to -- use such spy software, that is a lousy parent indeed.  For $29.99 per child, you can spy on your kids.  Sad.  In the process of doing so, you lose whatever trust that child has placed in you.

Soveillance is also sold for use by corporations to spy on the social media of their employees.  I have heard of employees being asked or told to give their Facebook password to their employer.  First, it is against the Terms of Service of all social media that I have seen to give the password to anyone.  Breaking Terms of Service is illegal.  Never give your user name or password to anyone.

Second, should a corporation be allowed to surveil its employees outside of the workplace as a condition of employment?  There have been several widely-reported incidents of people being fired for things they posted on their Facebooks.  These are two distinct questions: Should it be possible to fire employees for what they post on their  personal social media pages?  And:  Should an employer be allowed to install a surveillance program on those pages?

Soveillance is also marketed to governments.  The first segment of this is surveilling the social media of government officials or employees.  Keep in mind, this is surveillance of their personal social media.  Does a government entity have a right to do that?

The other part is scanning for words or patterns in public postings. The example given is scanning for flash mob robbery planning.  Such flash mobs are planned mainly by text among a group of people who know each other.  What is planned in open online public space on Twitter and Facebook are First Amendment protests.  There is a grave danger that Soveillance could be used or is being used to thwart First Amendment rights.

Note: Mike Pike, CEO of Soveillance emailed me to say the software only scans public Social Media postings.   My questions: First, why does a worried parent allow a child to have Social Media accounts, when most Social Media sites allow only those age 13+ and up?  And if a child has a Social Media account, why would it be "fully public"?  And if a child has a fully public Social Media account, and the parent wants to know what it says, why doesn't the parent just read it?  

Second, what kind of Social Media is actually public, besides Twitter?   True, there are kooks, like Anthony Weiner, posting completely inappropriate things on Twitter, but their transgressions are so outlandish that it does not take specialized software for them to become known.  

 If Mr. Pike allows, I will post his email here.

Soveillance brochure page 1
Soveillance brochure page 2
Soveillance brochure page 3

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