FBI to step up monitoring of social media sites amid privacy concerns

Friday, January 27, 2012
By Paul Martin

Agency to build app that will constantly monitor Twitter and Facebook, following law enforcement trend of increased reliance

By Dominic Rushe in New York
Thursday 26 January 2012

The FBI plans to step up the monitoring of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and has asked for help building an app to constantly monitor the sites.

Earlier this month the FBI quietly published a request for information (RFI) looking for companies that might help it build a new social network monitoring system looking at “publicly available” information. Contractors have until 10 February to suggest solutions.

US enforcement agencies have increasingly been using social networks to track crime. Recently over 40 members of two feuding New York gangs were indicted in connection with a series of shootings and killings in Brooklyn after they boasted about their crimes on Twitter.

Gang members boasted of “going to the beach” when they entered rival gang territories and tweeted they had “clapped him off the surfboard,” when they shot a rival. In the last 18 months, the gangs were responsible for six homicides and 32 shootings, according to New York police commissioner Ray Kelly.

But the increasing monitoring of social networks has also alarmed privacy advocates. Last year, Twitter disclosed that the justice department had subpoenaed it to get personal records of Icelandic MP Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a former WikiLeaks aide.

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