Facebook, Twitter block surveillance tool

Facebook, Twitter block surveillance tool
© Thinkstock

Facebook and Twitter are cutting off Geofeedia's access to their data after an ACLU report that the company created tools to help law enforcement with surveillance.

The ACLU report released Tuesday, titled “Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter Provided Data Access for a Surveillance Product Marketed to Target Activists of Color,” claims Geofeedia marketed the tool to help police monitor activists particularly minorities. The company mines social media and location data.

After reviewing the report, Facebook cutoff Geofeedia’s access to commercially available data from its social platform and from Instagram, which it owns.

On Tuesday, Twitter said they were also cutting off the Chicago social media company’s access.

“Twitter does have a 'longstanding rule' prohibiting the sale of user data for surveillance as well as a Developer Policy that bans the use of Twitter data “to investigate, track or surveil Twitter users,” a Twitter spokesperson explained in an email.

ADVERTISEMENT
The tool made use of Geofeedia’s access to Facebook’s Instagram API and Topic Feed API, as well as searchable access to Twitter’s database of public tweets — data available to commercial entities with company approval.

A Facebook spokesperson noted that Geofeedia, “only had access to data that people chose to make public.”

“If a developer uses our APIs in a way that has not been authorized, we will take swift action to stop them and we will end our relationship altogether if necessary.”

The spokesperson said Geofeedia violated those terms.

According to the ACLU report, Oakland and Baltimore police departments have used Geofeedia to monitor protests. The Daily Dot reports Denver police also used the tool.

"Our platform provides some clients, including law enforcement officials across the country, with a critical tool in helping to ensure public safety while protecting civil rights and liberties," Geofeedia's CEO said in a statement emailed to The Hill.

"Geofeedia will continue to engage with key civil liberty stakeholders, including the ACLU, and the law enforcement community to make sure that we do everything in our power to support the security of the American people and the protection of personal freedoms."