GeoFeedia Abused Twitter and Instagram APIs For Protester Surveillance

Last month, the ACLU revealed that location-based social media analytics platform GeoFeedia had attempted to abuse the data it receives from several social media platforms. In an article on Techdirt, Tim Cushing provided more detail about what happened, and how the social platforms responded.
 
GeoFeedia pays Instagram and Facebook, among others, for firehose access to their data feeds, which can then be used by third parties to listen to and engage with social media content on a location basis. It also gets searchable access, via a subsidiary, to Twitter’s database of public tweets. These feeds, coupled with GeoFeedia’s patented technology, mean the company can access and analyse streams of social and location data far faster than most other entities, including law enforcement.
 
During the 2014 protests in Ferguson, the company pitched its own firehose connection back to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. While GeoFeedia does nothing illegal, it’s issues apparently arose from the way it framed the offering. Rather than pitching it as a way to keep law enforcement informed of criminal activity, its sales team tried to sell it as a way to “stay one step ahead of the rioters”.
 
While the comments in response to the article reveal the wide range of opinion on the matter, GeoFeedia’s sales team’s actions are described as highlighting the feed’s usefulness in monitoring protestors and other First Amendment activity.
 
The data collected by the company is publicly available, so the interpretation of the infringement may depend on the reader. But the response from the social media platforms has been consistent. Instagram, and Facebook who owns it, cut off GeoFeedia’s access to the data on September 19, 2016.
 
Back in February, Twitter added additional terms to the contract it holds with GeoFeedia in an attempt to further safeguard against surveillance. This didn’t stop GeoFeedia touting its product for monitoring protests as recently as July 11th, leading Twitter to issue a cease and desist letter. Twitter have now cut off all data access to the location-based platform, who may have precious few resources left to offer its customers.
 
As Mr Cushing states, GeoFeedia may have had access to more data faster with a frontend that simplifies surveillance, but the offering was based on publicly available data. This may serve as a valuable example of what happens when a company seems to target particular areas and demographics with monitoring tactics, betraying public trust.

Be sure to read the next Data article: How to Turn Existing Web Pages Into RESTful APIs With Import.io

Original Article

ACLU Dumps Docs On Social Media Monitoring Firm Geofeedia; Social Media Platforms Respond By Dumping Geofeedia

 

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