LAPD is collecting social media info from civilians they stop. Some worry it’s mass surveillance

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An LAPD sign on Hollywood Boulevard says video monitoring is in progress. Photo by Shutterstock.

LA police officers are instructed to collect social media data on every civilian they stop, regardless of whether they are arrested or accused of a crime. That’s all according to documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice.

The department added “social media accounts” as a line on the physical field interview cards in 2015, according to a memo from former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Chief Charlie Beck.

To obtain the memo and other data, the Brennan Center submitted a request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) to the LAPD. It wanted to see how the department used social media to collect intel about individuals, groups, and activities.

In a statement, the LAPD said the social media information helps their officers stay in contact with people who can aid in solving crimes. But the practice is raising concerns about civil liberties and mass surveillance.

“Activists have always suspected that police were monitoring their social media activity,” says Sam Levin, who covers the LAPD for The Guardian. “I think many of them were surprised and disturbed to learn that there appeared to be this sort of widespread collection of social media data from everyday interactions with police. That was on a scale these activists had not imagined.”

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