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.