ACLU Criticism Causes Controversy with Social Media Monitoring Tools
Alleging privacy violations and potentially invasive tracking of activists’ actions, statements and protest plans, the American Civil Liberties Union has taken aim at social media monitoring software that has been used to monitor and analyze social media data from platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. While this software has proven popular for enterprises to monitor brand awareness and reputation, security concerns and potential threats, law enforcement organizations have also adopted it to monitor areas, groups and emerging situations.
Following criticism from the ACLU in October, social media services such as Twitter have taken part in reducing these software services’ access to their data and postings for law enforcement or government clients. As of December 2016, Twitter had also cut off access to its “firehose” of data to DHS Fusion Centers, while highly-filtered versions are still available through different companies.
According to Twitter’s “Developer Policies to Protect People’s Voices on Twitter” (published November 22, 2016): “To be clear: We prohibit developers using the Public APIs and Gnip data products from allowing law enforcement – or any other entity – to use Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period. The fact that our Public APIs and Gnip data products provide information that people choose to share publicly does not change our policies in this area. And if developers violate our policies, we will take appropriate action, which can include suspension and termination of access to Twitter’s Public APIs and data products.”
This does not mean that law enforcement agencies are abandoning social media monitoring. According to Washington DC authorities, an entire team of Secret Service agents was tasked to monitor social media during the January 20 Inauguration.
As of January 2017, it is unclear how this shakeup will impact enterprise security departments and businesses. If your enterprise is using social media monitoring software, we want to hear from you! Share your successes and challenges with Managing Editor Claire Meyer at