Privacy SOS

Journalists: Take a look at the surveillance going on in Ferguson

An enterprising journalist should look into what kinds of surveillance technologies the Ferguson and St. Louis police departments are using to track and monitor activists in wake of the Mike Brown protests. My guess is that they include the following, some or all of which could have been paid for with federal grant monies:

  • automatic license plate reader databases to track the movements of activist motorists;
  • Stingray cell phone sniffing devices, to download lists of people in attendance at demonstrations and wiretap conversations;
  • social media analytics to monitor people locally (and worldwide) who are producing and sharing information about the protests, as well as to mock up graphs and charts to identify key activists through associational data mining;
  • the use of undercover police; and
  • fusion center centered information sharing about protesters among local, state, and federal law enforcement.

There's been a lot of attention paid to the military hardware cops brought out to crush the protests in Ferguson, but almost no one is asking about the surveillance technologies in use there. Like with military equipment, federal agencies have over the past decade plus been providing state and local law enforcement with billions of dollars to bulk up surveillance powers. I would bet a substantial sum of money that the toys granted to and spy offices established in Ferguson and St. Louis in the wake of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security have been put to work monitoring and possibly disrupting organizing after Brown's killing.

Journalists should look into it.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.