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Facebook, Twitter and Instagram Gave Data to Company Tracking Black Protesters

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 10:02
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Records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union show that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram shared users’ information with a software company that helps police surveil and targets protesters of color.

The Guardian reports:

Instagram had provided Geofeedia access to Instagram’s API, or application programming interface, which is a feed of data from users’ public posts that includes their location, ACLU said. The photo-sharing service terminated access to the API last month, ACLU said.

The ACLU said Facebook allowed Geofeedia to use its “Topic Feed API”, a tool geared toward media companies and brands that enabled Geofeedia to obtain a “ranked feed of public posts” centered around specific hashtags, events or places. Facebook also ended this access last month.

Twitter provided Geofeedia with “searchable access” to its database of public tweets. In one email obtained by the ACLU, a Geofeedia representative told police it had a feature that “covered Ferguson/Mike Brown nationally with great success”, a reference to the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality in Missouri. …

The revelations have further exposed hypocrisy in Silicon Valley where tech leaders have expressed praise for Black Lives Matter, yet appear to be helping a social media monitoring company that targets protests and aids police.

“The companies have made strong public statements about supporting political and social movements, including Black Lives Matter,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director for the ACLU of California. “Now they need to make sure their systems are living up to their commitments.” …

The ACLU previously found that Geofeedia’s marketing materials have referred to unions and activists as “overt threats” and that the company told police its product can help track the “Ferguson situation”. One California police department allegedly used the software to monitor South Asian, Muslim and Sikh protesters, the ACLU said.

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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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