WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — West Sacramento is the first city to launch a controversial new program that watches what people post about it online.

The pilot project gives city leaders a look at what’s trending in the city, whether it’s good or bad. It’s also creating privacy concerns around how the data is being used.

When a wave of mailbox thefts hit the city last year, people complained about it on social media, and West Sacramento was watching. City leaders were alerted to the community concerns by a new system.

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“We saw the thing that most people were talking about were mailbox thefts,” said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon. “That’s something that we might not have noticed just by waiting for people to come to city hall or filing a complaint.”

The pilot project with Zencity gives city leaders like Mayor Christopher Cabaldon a look at what’s trending in the city, whether it’s good or bad.

The city is using Zencity, a system that crawls through publicly available social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It takes all of that data and sorts through to find what people are talking about and whether it’s positive or negative.

“The purpose of Zencity is to see the big picture,” he said.

In January, concerns came from the closure of a Safeway store and the brutal murder of two sisters at the hands of their father. In March, a shooting threat at River City High School generated negative posts over the lack of updates from police and school staff.

“It’s not that Zencity replaces our other forms of civic engagement, it’s just a way to listen more,” he said.

But in the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal and concerns over data collection in general, some are worried about where that data goes and who sees it.

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“There are ways this could go wrong,” said Peter Eckersley with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Once you get into policing there are many more potential concerns around the use of artificial intelligence.”

The ACLU worries about the potential misuse of the technology. Facebook started as a social engagement tool, then turned into a behemoth that exposed user data, even in unplanned ways.

“There’s no privacy issues because we’re not opening up anything that hasn’t already been published publicly for the purpose of being public,” Cabaldon said.

Instead, he hopes it will give all residents an equal say in civic matters.

“It allows us to hear the whole community and not just the loudest voices that come to our chambers for a public hearing,” he said.

The city is spending $12,000 from the Measure E sales-tax increase to license the software for one year. It gets a 66 percent discount as an early user.

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Comments (32)
  1. laserguidedloogie says:

    Christopher Cabaldon is a little marxist pig who wants to make sure you all KNOW he is watching you.

    That’s how censorship always starts, by claiming to DO something for you, which means they have to monitor you, then of course you SELF censor because you know the government is watching.

    Cabaldon doesn’t care about your opinion, he wants you to know he is watching you.


  2. Like he said…’It’s just a way to LISTEN.’

    It’s totally unnecessary to gather information in this manner since most of us can already READ unless there’s agenda is to build a database about residents.

    Bottom line, IMHO, this will gather info on the views of residents and the end goal won’t be just to fill potholes.

    Don’t be cowed by these liberals. FREE SPEECH is ours….forever.

  3. Jim Strong says:

    This guy not only looks like Lenin.

  4. Dear Christopher Cabaldon,

    I love your idea.

    George Orwell

  5. Yes! Artificial Intelligence here is buzzword speak and trend surfing, but is really bafflegab for Marxist snooping followed by various regulatory intrusion. Note that after the 66% discount period the city gets to spy on you and sock it to you at the same time!

  6. Rich Hamrick says:

    Big Brother is watching.

  7. Let me take a wild guess: West Sacramento is run by the totalitarian Democrat Party?

  8. People say there is a RACE problem. People say this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY and ONLY into White countries.

    People say the only solution to the RACE problem is if ALL and ONLY White countries “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-Whites.

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against White people, Anti-Whites agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.

  9. Henry Bowman says:

    “There’s no privacy issues because we’re not opening up anything that hasn’t already been published publicly for the purpose of being public,” Cabaldon said.”

    And he’s precisely right.

    Anyone who posts criticism to the Internet intending for it to be read by the entire world EXCEPT the target of the criticism is a gullible idiot.

    Anything you post to the Internet is global and forever. If that isn’t what you had in mind, don’t post it.

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