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Project

Police: Social Media Surveillance

Police departments are using social media to monitor activists and protestors, as well as for criminal investigations, with few controls. We’re pushing for more oversight.

Overview

Nearly three-quar­ters of Amer­ican adults are active on at least one social media plat­form, produ­cing troves of detailed data about their personal, polit­ical, and reli­gious beliefs and asso­ci­ations. Law enforce­ment’s use of this data is wide­spread. Some police depart­ments use soft­ware designed to monitor large numbers of users. Police also use social media to track indi­vidu­als or organ­iz­a­tions and use under­cover accounts to connect with unsus­pect­ing users.

While the exact number of police depart­ments enga­ging in social media monit­or­ing is unknown, media reports suggest that many use social media in some capa­city. This poses risks to privacy and free expres­sion, increases dispro­por­tion­ate surveil­lance of communit­ies of color, and can lead to arrests of people on the basis of misin­ter­preted posts and asso­ci­ations. And very few police depart­ments that use social media monit­or­ing tools have made public the policies govern­ing their use, height­en­ing the danger of misuse and abuse.

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