A recent post by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has drawn the attention of the public to a social media aggregation platform being used by law enforcement agencies to monitor protesters and activists. The platform ‘Geofeedia’ serves a wide variety of public private and public sector clients with over 500 law enforcement and public safety agencies across the US. Geofeedia offers real time monitoring of posts, photos, and live broadcast on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and other social media sites, and sort them by location.
Although this platform is essential and profitable for law enforcement and public safety especially in times of crisis, there are worries as expressed by civil liberties advocates that such services could be misused to disrupt legal protests and possibly create a documentation on protesters.
In response to this revelations and request from ACLU, Facebook terminated Geofeedia’s access to Facebook’s Topic Feed API and the Instragrams API on September 19 and Twitter also suspended Geofeedia’s commercial access to Twitter data but Geofeedia is not the only platform for such monitoring.
ACLU is therefore requesting social media companies to do these:
- Not provide data access to developers who have law enforcement clients and allow their product to be used for surveillance,
- Adopt clear, public, and transparent policies to prohibit developers from exploiting user data for surveillance purposes, and
- Institute human and technical auditing mechanisms to identify potential violations of this policy and take swift action when they do.