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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.


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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