Facebook, IG, Twitter helped police target Black activists

The ACLU announced that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram helped police to track activists of color by giving Chicago-based company Geofeedia access to user information.

Geofeedia provides real-time data on social media users in a geographic area. Users simply highlight an area that they want to track, and social media posts appear as dots, though you can interact with the dots to see the specifics of the posts.

In one case, the Baltimore Police Department used Geofedia data to identify specific protesters who had marched against Freddie Gray’s death. This information was matched to outstanding warrants so that they could arrest protestors “directly from the crowd.”

Nicole Ozer, the Technology & Civil Liberties Policy Director of the ACLU of California, requested the information from 63 police departments and was astounded to find how few processes are in place to let social media users know how their information is being used.

“We found no evidence in the documents of any public notice, debate, community input, or lawmaker vote about use of this invasive surveillance. And no agency produced a use policy that would limit how the tools were used and help protect civil rights and civil liberties,” Ozer said.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all since terminated Geofedia’s access to their data.