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Facebook, Instagram, Twitter Block Geofeedia Over Protest Surveillance

First Posted: Oct 13, 2016 05:25 AM EDT

Social media networks Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are now blocking social media tool Geofeedia after the American Civil Liberties Association published a report narrating how Geofeedia can gain access to these platforms' data through an API (Application Programming Interface).

Geofeedia has been reported to sell gathered data from these three social media platforms and selling them to police agencies. It has been advertising and selling itself as a tool that is able to monitor protests and other events in real-time.

Because of this tool, police authorities can now go directly to protests and gatherings without having to monitor hashtags and geographic location.

"[Police are] not allowed to go to a protest and start randomly asking people for their IDs unless there is a very clear security risk. So you shouldn't be able necessarily to replicate that just because they're tweeting at this event,"  privacy lawyer Tamir Israel, with the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

This, according to ACLU is a clear violation of privacy.

"Even just the suspicion that law enforcement is monitoring peaceful protests and keeping an eye on people could have a chilling effect on people participating in that peaceful protest," said Brenda McPhail, director of the privacy, technology and surveillance project at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Facebook and Instagram blocked Geofeedia's access on September 19 while Twitter ended it shortly after the ACLU announcement.

Meanwhile, according to a news from BBC, Geofeedia is committed to the principles of personal privacy, transparency and individual rights. Its Chief Executive Officer Phil Harris reiterated that the company had established clear policies to avoid the inappropriate use of its software.

"That said, we understand, given the ever-changing nature of digital technology, that we must continue to work to build on these critical protections of civil rights," he said in an emailed statement to Reuters news agency.

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