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Police used tool for real-time social media surveillance

by Brandon Russell | October 11, 2016October 11, 2016 1:30 pm PDT

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Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have revoked access to a tool law enforcement used to monitor the activity of social media accounts.

An investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, via The Verge, reveals police in Baltimore used a tool made by Geofeedia after the Freddie Gray verdict. In that situation, not only did the tool monitor social media posts for potential threats, but photos were run through a facial recognition system to locate protestors with outstanding warrants, The Verge said.

Social networks often give companies access to tools that allow them to comb through data for the purpose of spotting trends in the market. For example, keeping tabs on how people are responding to the Note 7 ordeal might be useful for other smartphone makers because it’ll give them a marketing edge during the busy holiday period.

In Geofeedia’s case, the surveillance tool was sold to police, which was then used to monitor citizens.

According to a September report from Daily Dot, it was revealed the Denver Police Department paid $30,000 of confiscated funds for access to Geofeedia’s tool, which allowed police to collect data that could then be stored for later use.

Here’s a portion of the Daily Dot’s report:

Tools like Geofeedia offer police the ability to conduct real-time social media surveillance during mass shootings or terrorism events. They are also capable of sucking up copious amounts of data about criminals and innocents alike, information which can then be stored by authorities for later use.

Why this matters:

In our increasingly connected world, the information you blast to the internet is becoming increasingly available for law enforcement to collect and scrutinize. In times of protest, such as the Freddy Gray situation, police used the tools to monitor activity and, according to one testimonial provided by Geofeedia, stop crimes before they occur.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...

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