#privacy: FBI wants to aggressively monitor social media for potential threats

The FBI are proposing to collect data from Facebook and other social media platforms. 

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been soliciting proposals from outside vendors to pull public data from social media companies, “to proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests.”

The requests were made several weeks before the two recent mass shootings in the US in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

The shootings prompted President Trump to blame social media for the “disturbed minds” becoming radicalised. Trump called for the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to work with third-party vendors to “detect mass shooters before they strike,” and better fight terrorist groups and domestic threats. 

The requests involve providing law enforcement access to full social media profiles of persons-of-interest and “their affiliation to any organization or groups,” keyword searches and other tool functions. 

However the proposed data collection violates Facebook’s ban against using its data for surveillance. The ban had been introduced following an investigation made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which found that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were used in surveillance cases. 

Furthermore, last month Facebook had agreed to a record $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, following an investigation into allegations of data privacy violations. 

The FBI have ensured that the proposed data collection will be conducted lawfully, whilst making sure that “all privacy and civil liberties compliance requirements are met.” 

The FTC have not commented on the FBI contracts, but stated that Facebook’s settlement requires Facebook to protect the names, phone numbers, IP addresses, and other “covered information.”

In regards to Twitter, there are policies implemented that prevents data collection “by any entity for surveillance purposes, or in any other way that would be inconsistent with our users’ reasonable expectations of privacy.”

“This proposal invites dragnet surveillance that history shows will disproportionately harm immigrants, communities of color, and activists, and it invites profit-seeking firms to violate Facebook and Twitter rules designed to keep users safe,” said Matt Cagle, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. 

“Treating social media users like suspects won’t make us more safe, but it will make us less free.”


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