How Police Are Watching You on Social Media..
Documents from Chicago's Cook County Sheriff’s Office reveal the undercover techniques law enforcement uses to monitor—and manipulate—social media users.
In October, the ACLU released emails showing that a social media monitoring company called Geofeedia had tracked the accounts of Black Lives Matter protesters for law enforcement clients. The revelations of social media spying made headlines and led Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to cut off Geofeedia’s access to bulk user data (which in turn prompted the company to slash half its staff).
Jennifer Helsby, co-founder of the police accountability group Lucy Parsons Labs, provided CityLab with a slideshow prepared by a former employee of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office Intelligence Center that sheds some light on how police use social media. The presentation shows intelligence analysts how to mine location and content data from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—and advises them on setting up fake accounts and assembling dossiers on persons of interest.
One tip shows sites such as Statigram and Instamap, which can help law enforcement analyze photo trends or collect photos on individuals in targeted areas. This example points to images of individuals collected using Instamap near the Cook County Jail, which the Cook County Sheriff’s Office operates, as well as images of a child, a young woman, and families in Chicago.
While social media surveillance is often thought of as targeting certain locations or terms, such as hashtags, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office records suggest that intelligence analysts are also compiling information on persons of interest for longer term retention, not just for “situational awareness” at public events.