Privacy SOS

Stasi 2.0: the West Virginia fusion center’s snitch app

Don't like your neighbor? Think your kid's math teacher unfairly gave her a bad grade? Have an ex-girlfriend you'd like to bother?

Don't fear: there's an easy way to (anonymously) send the police after them, now with a mobile phone app! 

The West Virginia Fusion Center has proudly announced the creation of a mobile app that allows anyone to snitch on anyone from the comfort of their phone.

Why wait until you get home, to email or fax your suspicious activity report to the spooks, when you could do it on the go?

The West Virginia fusion center website says that this app, available for download on both the Apple and Android app markets, should not be used to relay emergency information to the police. So what kind of information should people submit using this tool? 

Maybe the kind of suspicious activity reports that have been filed at the Mall of America over the past few years, many of them based on perceived race, religion or ethnicity? 

Suspicious activity reporting invites abuse and invasions of our privacy. Among the lists of "suspicious activities" the government wants us to keep an eye out for are so commonplace that it's ridiculous, including taking photographs and notes. 

The "snitch" app might seem like a funny joke, but a number of people nationwide and here in Massachusetts have been victims of suspicious activity reports gone wrong. Check out the following two videos to see the stories of two men who were needlessly caught up in the SARs web. 

Oh and one more thing: given that this tool is available for download by anyone in the world, what do you think is the likelihood that the WV fusion center will start to receive pictures of people's cute kittens from Denmark, bearing warnings about "suspiciously cute cat activities overseas"? Adding more information to the haystack just makes the needle harder to find. This is a terrible idea.

Please note that by playing the above clips YouTube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.