Privacy SOS

Boston Police Department releases social media monitoring policy, sort of

Muckrock's Michael Morisy requested a copy of the Boston Police Department Intelligence Unit's social media monitoring policy. In response, he got this uninformative and vague, one page document.

The document says the BPD does not "monitor" social media…and then describes some of the ways in which the BPD monitors social media:

The [Bureau of Intelligence and Analysis] does not “monitor” any specific web based information sources, rather our position is to utilize publicly available internet based capabilities to remain aware of potential situations that could create public safety considerations due to crowds, traffic, or other police deployment issues.  In addition these publicly available information sources may offer information about people engaging in criminal conduct or posing a danger to themselves or others.  Use of keywords and other publicly available alert mechanisms would be an appropriate use of such tools.
'Monitor', 'remain aware of', tomato, tomahto. Regarding the "publicly available alert mechanisms," perhaps the BPD uses something like this "invisible and covert" Twitter surveillance product?
Notably, the policy doesn't address the use of undercover operations online. In March 2013, all of the internet pointed and laughed at the BPD's social media failures when a detective got caught using fake social media profiles to try to figure out where DIY punk shows were happening. The BPD likes to bust up said shows.
Perhaps Mr. Morisy will appeal the BPD's lackluster response to his public records request, and inquire about the use of undercover operations online. The absence of any disclosed policy pertaining to undercover ops on social media suggests that the BPD is flying blind and doesn't have a policy to govern them. If true, that's very troubling.
There have been at least 124 shootings in Boston in the approximately six month period between the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing and today. Perhaps the BPD should shift some of its Google Plus Punk Show Undercover Squad into operations having to do with serious violence. They could probably also spare a couple of detectives from their anti-war protester monitoring section.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.