App Designed to Track Social Media Correspondence Secures Government Deals in Australia

Tech entrepreneur Nathan Cram, who claims to have developed a world-first technology with the software behind his new app Brolly, has secured the opportunity to put his tech to a serious test as the start-up company recently locked in deals with the Australian government for the use of his app, designed to monitor and capture all social media correspondence between a client organisation and the public.

Mr Cram was first inspired to create the application, which not only scrubs social media platforms for data regarding posted communications but also takes screenshots of linked websites and downloads any associated media, when he was forced to rely on Twitter updates during a 2014 bushfire. He recounted the story to The Australian Financial Review:

“I was holidaying in Lorne with my family and we could see these plumes of smoke over the escarpment and we were following all the crisis communication channels, listening to the sirens and talking to neighbours about updates, but it was a single tweet sent by the CFA that influenced my decision to get the hell out of there,” he said.

“It got me thinking … even things like email are automatically backed up for compliance records and I could see a lot of value in the conversations these organisations were having with citizens via social media … but I was wondering what measures were in place to protect the organisation. What would happen if that tweet from the CFA was ill-advised and wasn’t approved?

“The tweet could just be deleted … but what about the ethics from a citizen perspective, or what would happen if I raised an FOI request?”

So Mr Cram set about developing the technology himself, spending the next few years researching the publishing process within public organisations in the hope of creating automatic, ceaselessly-operating software designed for the creation of a social media compliance record for these organisations. Apparently his endeavour was something of a success, as the resulting app will now be utilised by not only the Department of Immigration and Border Control, but also WorkSafe Victoria, the Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and Sciences, and the City of Albany council in Western Australia.

While the app does capture sensitive information such as when a post was originally made, shared, edited or deleted, it claims to “safeguard privacy” in the way it operates, only capturing two-way conversations between a government body and citizen, in addition to any standalone posts issued by the agency in question. Remarks made regarding any given organisation will also only be recorded if said organisation is tagged.

WorkSafe social media manager Lysandra Godley commented on how above all, the app is a valuable time-saver for herself and her team. She told the Australian Financial Review, “The volume of customer interaction is steady and the public usually connect with us for advice reactively rather than proactively. WorkSafe needs a lot of information when managing these reports so we use social media as a gateway to connect through traditional communication. I’m confident that we can retrieve this information because Brolly captures these conversations for us.”

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