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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently looking to acquire new tools to monitor the social media accounts of individuals it believes pose a threat to national security.
In an online business proposal, the agency states that it is looking for an “early alerting tool in order to mitigate multifaceted threats.”
“The mission critical exploitation of social media will enable the Bureau to detect, disrupt, and investigate an ever growing diverse range of threats to U.S. National interests,” the FBI writes.
The agency goes on to cite services such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and their use by both international and domestic terror groups as well as foreign intelligence agents.
The FBI is soliciting contracts for a new social media surveillance tool: https://t.co/3AglNJuote— Hugh Handeyside (@hhandeyside) July 12, 2019
They're not beating around the bush in terms of how pervasively they're monitoring social media content: pic.twitter.com/Zo528lt8Pd
Any company looking to supply the agency with its services, the FBI notes, must be able to “obtain the full social media profile of persons of interest.” Such data would include user IDs, emails, IP addresses, telephone numbers, and geolocation information.
The FBI’s solicitation also calls on any potential contractor to ensure that “all privacy and civil liberties compliance requirements are met.”
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Hugh Handeyside tweeted that the FBI inquiry shows how “pervasively they’re monitoring social media content.” Given the agency’s history of targeting activists and underrepresented communities, critics argue that the potential for misuse remains constant.
“The FBI is clearly watching what we say online,” Handeyside wrote on Twitter. “We need to know more about how and why.”
It's difficult to see how such surveillance couldn't be massively overbroad, chilling expression and causing activists and people of color to be labeled as threats based on protected speech.— Hugh Handeyside (@hhandeyside) July 12, 2019
The FBI is clearly watching what we say online. We need to know more about how and why.
The ACLU is currently involved in a legal battle with the FBI and six other agencies in an attempt to learn details regarding their social media monitoring.
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Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter based in Seattle, covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.