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New bill to crack down on deceptive social media surveillance by police

Sponsors called out fake accounts made by New York police.

 

Jacob Seitz

Tech

The New York State Assembly wants to ban state police from tracking people using fake social media accounts, according to a press release.

Per the release, State Sen. Cordell Cleare (D) and Assemblymember Zohran K. Mamdani (D) introduced a bill that would ban some social media surveillance by the police. The bill is in partnership with the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a digital privacy advocacy group.

“As the proud Senate Sponsor of S.9247, I unequivocally believe that deceptive, malicious. and abusive tactics undertaken by law enforcement under the guise of fake social media profiles must cease,” Cleare said in the release, highlighting the long history of deceptive police tactics. “Just as the Exonerated 5 were coerced and lied to in person, the very same tactics are employed today via virtual means. Communities of color and women seeking reproductive services do not need to be surveilled, they need our constructive and proactive support.”

The bill would be the first in the country to ban fake police accounts on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Currently, the release says, police can operate thousands of fake accounts, “tricking the public to waive their rights by accepting “friend” and “follow” requests from officers.”

The legislation sponsors accelerated the introduction of the bill after the leak of a Supreme Court decision that would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, “fearing that police will increasingly use fake accounts to target pregnant people seeking abortion care.”

“It’s bad enough when the courts repeal rights, but no one should be tricked into clicking away the Constitution,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn in the release. “Even if abortion is legal under New York law, pregnant people will still be prosecuted for seeking care when they travel from out of state. We can’t allow police to set up accounts for fake abortion clinics and health centers, tricking pregnant people into waiving their privacy.”

The bill is one in a series of bills that S.T.O.P. is pushing for in New York. Last month, the group renewed calls to pass the Reverse Location Search Prohibition Act which would ban geofence warrants in the state as well as police data purchases. 

The bills are both in the early stages of passing and have not had votes scheduled as of the time of writing.


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