Privacy SOS

New FBI social media monitoring tool can “dive into data about an individual,” track items by location


The FBI has plans to buy access to a social media monitoring system that brags about its ability to “[d]ive into data about an individual’s interests and interactions with other users,” “[i]dentify where conversations are taking place across the globe by searching keywords, hashtags or phrases,” and “filter live and archived location-based social media data by keyword, user, day, hour, and more,” among other capabilities.

The company the FBI wants to contract with, Geofeedia, makes bold claims on its website about the tool’s location tracking abilities:

Only relying on keyword and hashtag monitoring means you are missing two thirds of social media activity. Add location-based intelligence to your social media data set to stop potential threats – before they start.

The social media monitoring tool, which seems primarily built for corporations looking to better market their products to consumers, has particular law enforcement applications, including “real time video.”

Protecting your community means being there – no matter where you are. See what’s happening around your officers and throughout your jurisdiction through real-time video, photo, and text content.

A graphic on the company’s law enforcement sales page shows what a Geofeedia alert to an FBI agent might look like. The text reads, in part: “They really think barbed wire is gonna keep people out?” Presumably this is meant to demonstrate how officials can monitor locations and keywords to get automated alerts about random people’s Tweets and Facebook posts.

Geofeedia, which according to its website is in use at a West Virginia police fusion center and by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, also enables automated archiving of social media posts of interest to police or feds. A graphic on the company’s website featuring the archival capability shows images of what appear to be people at protests.

© 2024 ACLU of Massachusetts.