ACLU criticizes social networking sites for assisting police to investigate Black activists by exploiting social media surveillance product.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of California, social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have allegedly been sharing user access data to a social media surveillance product, Geofeedia, a Chicago-based tech startup specializing in location-based intelligence software, marketed to police to help stalk Black demonstrators and activists.
On Tuesday the ACLU put out a press release, stating it had obtained records proving that social networking sites shared user data to Geofeedia. The non-profit organization also confirmed that after criticizing the social media sites, Facebook has cut the access of Geofeedia’s topic-based feed to public user posts, Instagram ceased its access to public user posts and Twitter did the same thing as well.
Geofeedia, surveillance tool for cops to target protesters, exposed by ACLU today, is funded by US taxpayers via CIA https://t.co/O0PGh851SO
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) October 11, 2016
“Further steps are required if these companies are to live up to their principles and policies by protecting users of all backgrounds engaging in political and social discourse,” the ACLU’s report read. “So today the ACLU of California, the Center for Media Justice and Color of Change are calling on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to commit to concrete changes to better protect users going forward.”
ACLU first had knowledge of the agreements between social media platforms and Geofeedia through public records requests to 63 California law enforcement agencies. In a well-detailed letter to the social media sites, the organization told them all to disallow data access to developers of surveillance tools; guarantee vigorous oversight of said surveillance platforms; and create a crystal clear policy that clearly prohibits surveillance developers from having access to user data.
— Nicole Ozer (@NicoleOzer) October 11, 2016
“Facebook and especially Twitter have built their brands on the backs of Black users,” said Brandi Collins, campaign director for Color of Change. “CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey have openly courted activists and organizations in the Movement for Black Lives to engage with their platforms. This makes each of their involvement with social media surveillance tools used against Black activists all the more disturbing.”
“While we’re glad both companies have cut off Geofeedia’s access to user data, both of these companies only did so after these secret deals were made public, both companies need to immediately develop publicly accessible policies that prevent these types of harmful deals from happening again in the future,” she added.
Twitter blocks monitoring co. Geofeedia after ACLU proves their data was used by police to moniter black activists https://t.co/i6IrGMkLu9
— BlackInformant (@BlackInformant) October 12, 2016
Providing user access data for the apprehension of criminals or wrongdoers can’t be slated by any means, but doing so in order to track Black activists and demonstrators, who are fighting for a great cause, is absolutely wrong. We understand that the current situation shows that all the things Black activists do, their meetings and process, do not go unnoticed. But the authorities should make sure they are working to solve the mega social problems at hand, instead of trying to silence these Black rights representatives with the help of social media platforms.