Privacy SOS

Surveillance company markets Twitter tool enabling “invisible and covert” monitoring

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Surveillance corporation BrightPlanet, which sells deep packet inspection technology to spy and law enforcement agencies and private businesses, is marketing a new product aimed at helping its customers make sense of the torrential data flow that courses through Twitter every day. 

The product, 'BlueJay', allows investigators to monitor "the entire Twitter firehose" without using a Twitter account themselves, enabling "invisible and covert" surveillance. The service allows analysts and spooks to highlight geographic areas for tracking, a feature it calls 'geofencing'. (This tool only works with geotagged tweets, meaning that if you don't want to be identified in these targeted surveillance operations, you should make sure your tweets aren't tagged with your location.)

While the company markets the Twitter surveillance product as a "law enforcement crime scanner," one of the prime monitoring targets used as an example in its promotional materials is "#protest".

BrightPlanet's marketing page for law enforcement products frames the company's efforts as aimed at catching 'bad guys':

The bad guys are out there, and they’re talking to each other online. Whether they’re using social media sites like Twitter, forum boards, or deeper outlets, your job is to find them. But the volume of information can make that difficult, especially in a world of real-time changes.

The obvious implication is that protests are criminal events, where 'bad guys' hang out, and that they should therefore be monitored (covertly) by law enforcement. That's a chilling proposition, but one that is all too common among security agencies today — including at the very top. 

Companies like BrightPlanet are profiting handsomely off of the new COINTELPRO. Our democracy, on the other hand, is under attack.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.