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THE Metropolitan Police has been collecting “children’s personal data” from social media sites as part of an anti-gang project carrying out “profiling on a large scale,” a police document has revealed.
The Home Office-funded scheme, called Project Alpha, started in July 2019 with the stated aim of gathering intelligence from social media such as Snapchat, Youtube and Instagram, to prevent instances of serious and gang-related crime.
A team of 30 staff are employed on the project to scroll through social media sites, looking at drill music videos and other content.
But new details revealed in a recently disclosed Met document have raised fresh concerns about the privacy of children and the targeting of young black children.
The document states that Project Alpha would involve carrying out “large scale” profiling with males aged 15 to 21 as the main focus.
The data protection impact assessment was obtained through a freedom of information request by investigative organisation Point Source and reported by the Guardian on Friday.
The Met, however, told the Guardian that the inclusion of the demographic of 15-21 year-olds was an error, and that it was incorrectly stated that the project would “carry out profiling on a large scale.”
Community activists have described the scheme as “racially motivated.”
It comes after the Met was criticised in 2018 by the information commissioner over its gang matrix, launched in 2012 in response to the London riots.
The listing of alleged gang members was branded racist by human rights groups, with Amnesty International describing it as “a racially discriminatory system that stigmatises young black men for the music they listen to or their behaviour on social media.”
Emmanuelle Andrews of the human rights group Liberty told the Guardian: “This surveillance and monitoring of young people and children is deeply worrying, impacting their right to express themselves and to participate in friendship and community networks.
“It can have serious consequences for their futures, such as their ability to access housing, education and work.
“Police monitoring of the kind done by the Met under Project Alpha and the gangs matrix doesn’t tackle the causes of serious violence – it only serves to criminalise and harass young people, in particular young black men and boys.”
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