National Security

Los Angeles Police Tried Out Social Media Surveillance Software To Spy On The Public

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Ailan Evans Tech Reporter
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The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) partnered with a data analytics company to spy on social media profiles, according to internal LAPD documents.

In 2019, the LAPD engaged in a four-month trial with data collection and surveillance software company Voyager Labs, according to documents requested by the Brennan Center for Justice and first reported by The Guardian. The software offers the ability to surveil and analyze massive amounts of data collected from social media profiles, according to communications between Voyager and the LAPD.

It’s not clear the extent to which the LAPD used the software’s capabilities to surveil citizens. The LAPD did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. (RELATED: Police Release Video Of Four People Wrestling Victim To Ground At Gas Station, Taking Turns Robbing Him

An LAPD vehicle drives past as people protest the killings of people by police including the death of George Floyd and Daunte Wright on April 12, 2021 at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the software’s features, known as “active persona,” would enable the LAPD to “avatars” to collect and analyze otherwise inaccessible information; in other words, the software would enable the creation of fake accounts to access hidden information. An LAPD official described the function of the feature as a way to “log in with fake accounts that are already friended with the target subject.”

Voyager Labs’ “Genesis” technology “parses social media search warrant PDF returns in minutes, exponentially condensing the time needed to analyze documents which are often thousands of pages,” according to communications between Voyager and the LAPD.  Voyager also advertised its software as being able to detect people’s beliefs based on information from their social media media profiles.

The company’s technology also reportedly identifies possible targets by analyzing their social media connections, which experts say raises concerns.

“There’s a basic ‘guilt by association’ that Voyager seems to really endorse,” Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director at the Brennan Center, told the Guardian. “This notion that you can be painted with the ideology of people that you’re not even directly connected to is really disturbing.”

“The problem with these types of surveillance operations is they’re often not based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause,” criminal defense lawyer John Hamasaki told the Guardian. “Instead, it is casting a broad net.”

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