Boston Police Waste Taxpayer Money Violating Law Through Illegal Surveillance Of Citizenry

By Aaron Kesel

Boston Police effectively broke the law by illegally surveilling social media users for years to conduct online surveillance in 2014, 2015, and 2016, without telling the city council, and violating civilians right to free speech, a new blog post by the ACLU alleges.

In December 2016, the Boston City Council held a hearing to discuss the Boston Police Department’s plan to spend $1.4 million on a social media surveillance system called Geofeedia.  After news of the department’s plans became public news, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans claimed at the time, “We’re not going after ordinary people. It’s a necessary tool of law enforcement and helps in keeping our neighborhoods safe from violence, as well as terrorism, human trafficking, and young kids who might be the victim of a pedophile.”

However, the plans were scrapped by skeptical city council members, Mayor Marty Walsh and Commissioner Evans. Leading up to 2016, since as far back as 2014 according to the documents, the department secretly monitored social media posts of thousands of ordinary Bostonians with other surveillance software that were not named by the report. The police even spied on a thensitting City Councilor, Tito Jackson — who was, ironically enough, a critic of the BPD’s 2016 plan to buy the outrageously overpriced system, the report stated.

The Geofeedia software was first used on a trial basis for two weeks in January 2014 and then for another two weeks in November 2014 without any type of approval from the city council. The documents show that during this two-week trial of Geofeedia in November 2014, BPD used the software to monitor and collect social media posts about protests in Boston in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

report released today by the ACLU of Massachusetts details the BPD’s use of the social media monitoring software in 2014, 2015, and 2016, which found that disturbing abuses of human rights occurred in complete secret. Based on the records obtained through the Massachusetts Public Records Law, the report revealed that employees at BRIC used the software to scan and collect thousands of posts of unsuspecting users containing specific terms/phrases on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, YikYak, and Flickr just to name a few.

But there is just one problem: the keywords used by BPD targeted speech related to race, religion, and political activity, but didn’t turn up any evidence of violence, solving serious crimes or terrorism as the plan was marketed. Instead, the BPD violated several Bostonians’ privacy rights and targeted users’ First Amendment protected free speech.

Further, Geofeedia used terms associated with political activism, like “#blacklivesmatter” and “protest.” Bizarrely, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Geofeedia received funding from the CIA’s venture capital arm In-Q-Tel.

BPD ceased using Geofeedia in 2016, after the ACLU of Northern California revealed that Geofeedia literally marketed itself to law enforcement as a tool to “keep track of protesters.”

In 2017, the Department officially announced it was withdrawing its contentious $1.4 million proposals for a new social media surveillance system. However, the door was left ajar for a similar social media surveillance system in the future and the BPD hasn’t been punished for its use.

Download Your First Issue Free!
Do You Want to Learn How to Become Financially Independent, Make a Living Without a Traditional Job & Finally Live Free?

Download Your Free Copy of Counter Markets
Issue: Trends & Strategies for Maximum Freedom

The ACLU is calling on the Boston City Council to create a regulated, public means that would require the BPD and other city agencies to adhere to before acquiring or using surveillance technology. The report also recommended that the BPD should change its policy to prohibit surveillance and collection on any individuals based on their “race, religion, national origin, and protected political speech and association, except in cases where the Department has reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed a crime. Additionally, the report further states that police should not collect or share the information of individuals “who are not suspected of specific articulable, criminal activity, with designated, enumerated exceptions for situations like missing persons’ investigations.”

The ACLU added that state legislators should immediately pass the Fundamental Freedoms Act to protect citizens against unwarranted surveillance of their free speech except in extreme conditions where an individual is suspected under legal grounds to have committed a crime and there free speech would help assist law enforcement in their investigation.

It’s worth noting that in 2012, the ACLU and National Lawyers Guild published a report based on BPD documents which showed that the Department tracked the activities of antiwar and peace activists in the city, producing  “intelligence reports” about individuals and organizations that were labeled with terms like “HOMESEC-DOMESTIC” and “EXTREMIST.”

BPD spent over $26,000 on Geofeedia subscriptions over approximately 16 months, wasted on nothing more than spying on users; there is no proof provided in the documents that any crimes were ever stopped or any arrest ever occurred except for potentially harassing people for riding dirt bikes for “reckless driving.”

A 2014 survey of 1,200 law enforcement agencies found that 80 percent used some form of social media surveillance, the report noted.

In recent years Activist Post has told you about a slew of surveillance tracking software including Twitter’s ChatterGrabber, a program that was “used to monitor tickborne diseases, such as Lyme disease, public sentiment involving vaccines, and gun violence and terrorism, serving as an early warning system for public health officials through suspicious tweets or conversations.”

Then there is the pre-fake news Truthy study which fits more into what BPD were doing with Geofeedia. The study used Twitter’s full database to study political language focusing on the spread of “political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution,” researchers said.

Truthy was an ensemble of web services and tools to demonstrate applications of data mining research (a fancy word for spying), from visualizing meme diffusion patterns to detecting social bots on Twitter. Ironically, the now-sitting head of the FCC Ajit Pai who got rid of net neutrality, stated that the study had “come straight out of a George Orwell novel.”

Surveillance of ordinary citizens happens all the time from social experiments like Facebook’s infamous emotional experiment to Truthy, to police and law enforcement agencies prying into users’ private lives or through the creation of a Stasi web of surveillance asking citizens to tattle on each other with their smartphones. It’s not just the NSA spying that was revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden; the problem is far more vast, and the scary thing is no one seems to care that we are walking straight into 1984.

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Steemit, and BitChute. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.

Image credit: ArsTechnica


Activist Post Daily Newsletter

Subscription is FREE and CONFIDENTIAL
Free Report: How To Survive The Job Automation Apocalypse with subscription

9 Comments on "Boston Police Waste Taxpayer Money Violating Law Through Illegal Surveillance Of Citizenry"

  1. Probably monitoring this site as well…

  2. michael lawless | February 9, 2018 at 11:29 am | Reply

    its ok its a democratic city so laws dont apply
    they only go by laws they approve of

    • The republicans do the exact same thing. Stop being dragged into the false dichotomy of the republicans v democrats, or right v left, and all those other fake differences! They are all distractions to keep us separated and not recognizing that these upper crust people are working together. Normal people aren’t the ones running the banking system, and any other systems out there!

      • Yes. It’s a Good-Cop/Bad-Cop routine in the dog-and-pony show which is DC politics. And I suggest that this issue, like most aspects of the spying/surveillance arena, is distraction from a fundamental situation, which, in short, is the extensive infiltration of Government (and all key areas of society, such as science and medicine) by what can be called “Elite operatives.” Occupy.com has posted an excellent model of this, by Andrew Gavin Marshall, called “Introducing the Global Power Project” at http://www.occupy.com/article/introducing-global-power-project#sthash.ID7xacVe.y96RC45C.dpbs. If a bit limited in scope, it shows how the various organs of the System are intertwined and “interdependent.”

        One of the key ways this comes about is: “The aim of the Global Power Project is to map the connections between the world’s dominant institutions of power, by examining the relationships and points of cross-over among the individuals who direct these institutions.” Infiltration, in other words, by like-minded executors of policy. A definitive text on this is Antony Sutton’s “America’s Secret Establishment.” Covering the U.S. period from about 1830 to about 1950, it documents the infiltration of members of a single secret society into every key societal venue: Politics, government, media, business, banking, economics, finance, heavy industry, *science, *medicine, *military, *education/academia, and entertainment/Hollywood.

        Secret societies, or more accurately, the Elite’s global network of them, are rarely mentioned in mainstream ’alternative media’ or on activist sites. The network is is a key organ of the financial/aristocratic Elite’s millennia-old manipulation of human society. Through it, policy is entrained into the minds of operatives who are then worked into positions of power and authority, using money and power.

        So what does all this have to do with spying. In effect, infiltration means that the apparent separation between government and the corporate/banking monolith is an illusion. Because operatives of like mind work on both sides (this is one way war is instigated). But both aspects are orchestrated by the global power/financial Elite. Having power means that one can create policy and have it carried out down through the hierarchy. BUT – within that hierarchy are many individuals and organizations who don’t have the big picture, but are being exploited/controlled in various ways, and driven by other motives, into actions that support the larger Elite Agenda. Which, these days, is an Orwellian control system on techno-steroids.

        So there is what I call the CIA “Boy Scouts,” who believe the whole fairy tale of ‘foreign threats’ and ‘threats to national security,’ which are mostly created by operatives infiltrated ‘over there.’ It’s all much like theater or “Drama,” designed to focus attention everywhere but upon the script writers—society’s masters, who invented, manage, and own the System.

        An important thing to keep in mind is that this is nothing new – a system evolved from ancient times and transferred from Europe/GB to America. The US has never been, but on paper, an entity independent of the Crown/aristocracy.

        Thus, the telecom companies have no secret agreement with NSA, they ARE the NSA. And I suspect that every electron that traverses the Internet goes through a central computer, or system of them, such that “spying” by this of that agency or group (e.g., the National Institutes of Health tracks vaccine beliefs on social media) is incidental to what’s fundamentally going on, and serves to distract us from it.

  3. Interesting article. But I would respectfully suggest that this issue, like most aspects of the spying/surveillance arena, is distraction from a fundamental situation, which, in short, is the extensive infiltration of Government (and all key areas of society, such as science and medicine) by what can be called “Elite operatives.” Occupy.com has posted an excellent model of this, by Andrew Gavin Marshall, called “Introducing the Global Power Project” at http://www.occupy.com/article/introducing-global-power-project#sthash.ID7xacVe.y96RC45C.dpbs. If a bit limited in scope, it shows how the various organs of the System are intertwined and “interdependent.”

    One of the key ways this comes about is: “The aim of the Global Power Project is to map the connections between the world’s dominant institutions of power, by examining the relationships and points of cross-over among the individuals who direct these institutions.” Infiltration, in other words, by like-minded executors of policy. A definitive text on this is Antony Sutton’s “America’s Secret Establishment.” Covering the U.S. period from about 1830 to about 1950, it documents the infiltration of members of a single secret society into every key societal venue: Politics, government, media, business, banking, economics, finance, heavy industry, *science, *medicine, *military, *education/academia, and entertainment/Hollywood.

    Secret societies, or more accurately, the Elite’s global network of them, are rarely mentioned in mainstream ’alternative media’ or on activist sites. The network is is a key organ of the financial/aristocratic Elite’s millennia-old manipulation of human society. Through it, policy is entrained into the minds of operatives who are then worked into positions of power and authority, using money and power.

    So what does all this have to do with spying. In effect, infiltration means that the apparent separation between government and the corporate/banking monolith is an illusion. Because operatives of like mind work on both sides (this is one way war is instigated). But both aspects are orchestrated by the global power/financial Elite. Having power means that one can create policy and have it carried out down through the hierarchy. BUT – within that hierarchy are many individuals and organizations who don’t have the big picture, but are being exploited/controlled in various ways, and driven by other motives, into actions that support the larger Elite Agenda. Which, these days, is an Orwellian control system on techno-steroids.

    So there is what I call the CIA “Boy Scouts,” who believe the whole fairy tale of ‘foreign threats’ and ‘threats to national security,’ which are mostly created by operatives infiltrated ‘over there.’ It’s all much like theater or “Drama,” designed to focus attention everywhere but upon the script writers—society’s masters, who invented, manage, and own the System.

    An important thing to keep in mind is that this is nothing new – a system evolved from ancient times and transferred from Europe/GB to America. The US has never been, but on paper, an entity independent of the Crown/aristocracy.

    Thus, the telecom companies have no secret agreement with NSA, they ARE the NSA. And I suspect that every electron that traverses the Internet goes through a central computer, or system of them, such that “spying” by this of that agency or group (e.g., the National Institutes of Health tracks vaccine beliefs on social media) is incidental to what’s fundamentally going on, and serves to distract us from it.

  4. Comment cancelled.

  5. Comment cancelled.

  6. Comment cancelled.

  7. Comment cancelled.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*