The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has ordered its officers to collect information on the social media accounts of every civilian they interview, including individuals who have not been arrested or charged with a crime, according to a report from The Guardian.
When questioning civilians, copies of “field interview cards” completed by police disclose that LAPD officers are ordered to record the Facebook, Instagram, Twitter accounts of civilians, in addition to other social media accounts. The cards also documented basic biographical information.
Moreover, the Guardian revealed that an internal memo showed that the police chief, Michel Moore, had instructed his officers to collect data on any arrested individual. This data will be later used in “investigations, arrests, and prosecutions”; in addition, collected data will be reviewed again by a supervisor to double-check it.
The documents, obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-profit organization, have raised concerns about civil liberties and the potential for unwarranted mass surveillance of civilians.
“There are real dangers about police having all of this social media identifying information at their fingertips,” Brennan Center deputy director Rachel Levinson-Waldman said, noting that the information may have been stored in a database that could be used for a wide range of purposes.
The Brennan Center conducted a review of 40 other police agencies in the United States and was unable to find another department requesting the collection of social media on interview cards, although many of these agencies have not publicly disclosed copies of the cards.
The organization also received data on LAPD tactics for surveillance on social media, which raises issues about the monitoring of activist groups such as the Black Lives Movement.