Saskatchewan police are planning to use social media to help predict people who might go missing.
According to Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), the provincial police are developing “predictive models” that will analyze a person’s social media presence for “risk factors.” The report says this will allow police to act on this data when necessary and intervene before something happens.
Some of the risk factors police will be looking for include people who have a history of running away from home or have suffered from domestic violence, among many others.
Social media monitoring is part of a larger effort from the Saskatchewan Police Predictive Analytics Lab (SPPAL). While SPPAL aims to predict all kinds of potential missing persons cases, police are focusing on high-risk groups like children in provincial care, Indigenous persons and repeated runaways.
To help these efforts, municipal police, the Ministry of Social Services Child and Family programs and regional RCMP have all agreed to share information with SPPAL.
It’s currently unclear exactly what kind of insights the police aim to obtain as part of their monitoring. It also remains to be seen if other provincial police will adopt a similar social media monitoring tactic.
However, social media monitoring has already proven useful to some Ontario police. For example, month, authorities in Hamilton began to suspect foul play in a missings persons case after her social media activity ceased. Twenty-nine-year-old Monica Chisar had mental health issues and was known to fall out of contact with family for a while. However, she would still post to social media during this time, which made her latest disappearance suspicious.