The FBI Says It Can Neither Confirm Or Deny Social Media Monitoring Programs It Publicly Secured Contracts For

It’s no secret the FBI engages in social media surveillance. It has a contract with Dataminr to sift through tweets directly from Twitter’s firehose. For years it has engaged in suspicionless pre-investigation “assessments,” which compile every publicly-available piece of information the agency can gather without a warrant or subpoena. (Assessments also allow the agency to gather info from law enforcement-only databases, but that’s not the issue at hand here.) From this starting point, the FBI can decide whether or not the person it targeted in its non-investigation investigation is worth investigating.

Public posts on social media services have zero expectation of privacy. All the same, one likes to believe the government has better things to do with its limited resources than scour the public-facing web for unlawful tweets or whatever. Clearly, the software the agency uses limits manpower expenditures while allowing the feds to act as unseen followers/friends of thousands of people’s social media timelines, but it’s still haystacks someone needs to make sense of.

The FBI’s social media surveillance is an open secret. Of course, now that it’s being pressed for details by the ACLU, it’s trying to pretend it has no idea what everyone — including the FBI — is talking about….


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