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Brennan Center Files FOIA Request for Information on DHS Social Media Monitoring Software

On April 26, 2017, the Brennan Center for Justice filed a Freedom of Information Act request with two arms of the Department of Homeland Security – Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – seeking records regarding their purchase and use of social media monitoring software.

Published: April 28, 2017

On April 26, 2017, the Bren­nan Center for Justice filed a Free­dom of Inform­a­tion Act request with two arms of the Depart­ment of Home­land Secur­ity – Customs and Border Protec­tion (CBP) and Immig­ra­tion and Customs Enforce­ment (ICE) – seek­ing records regard­ing their purchase and use of social media monit­or­ing soft­ware.

Social media monit­or­ing soft­ware offers the abil­ity to constantly analyze people’s online activ­it­ies. The tools can search for, read, inter­pret, categor­ize, and archive posts from popu­lar social media sites. Many of the services also allow keyword- and loca­tion-specific search options across multiple sites.

Publicly avail­able purchase orders indic­ate that CBP and ICE have spent millions of dollars on contracts with compan­ies that offer this soft­ware. Yet the agen­cies have released little inform­a­tion about how and when these tech­no­lo­gies are used. In light of the First Amend­ment and privacy interests at stake, as well as reports about the increas­ing collec­tion of social media inform­a­tion at the border, the Bren­nan Center seeks the public release of inform­a­tion about the nature of these contracts and products.

The Bren­nan Center has previ­ously repor­ted on the rising use of similar tools by local law enforce­ment agen­cies. To see if local law enforce­ment agen­cies in your area have purchased this kind of soft­ware, see the Bren­nan Center’s Map of Social Media Monit­or­ing by Police Depart­ments, Cities, and Counties.

See the Bren­nan Center’s FOIA Request here.