Chicago Tried To Justify Not Informing ACLU Of Social Media Monitoring Partner By Saying ACLU Is Really Mean

from the the-chicago-way dept

My home city of Chicago has built quite a reputation for itself to date. It wouldn’t be entirely unfair to suggest that the city’s government is run by very silly people who think its citizens are quite stupid, while also managing to build something of a kleptocracy centered around professional corruption. With any such hilariously corrupt institutions, the corruption itself is only half the frustration. The other half is the way the Chicago government thumbs its nose at virtually everyone, so secure is it in its knowledge that its corruption will never result in any serious penalty.

An example of this can be found in the way the city government responded to an ACLU FOIA request to disclose the vendor Chicago is using to monitor the social media accounts of its own citizens. If you’re thinking that such a program sounds dystopian, welcome to Chicago. If you’re thinking there’s no way that the city should be able to hide that information from its citizens and that it was obviously disclosed publicly somewhere, welcome to Chicago. And if you thought that a FOIA request must surely be all that it would take to get this information to the public, well, you know the rest.

The ACLU of Illinois today called for an end to an invasive program that allows Chicago police to monitor the social media accounts of the City’s residents. The call comes after the City finally released records Wednesday revealing the name of the spying software that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has used to covertly monitor Chicagoans’ social media profiles.

The release was through litigation filed by the ACLU last June in Cook County Circuit Court seeking to force the City to produce documents in response to a January 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The ACLU was represented by Louis A. Klapp at Quarles & Brady LLP in this request. Previously, CPD acknowledged that it spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on social media monitoring software, but refused to provide the name of the software company.

Now, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a platform to monitor the social media activity of its own citizens is bad enough on its own. After all, this isn’t the first go around with Chicago doing this very thing. In 2014, Chicago contracted with a different company, Geofeedia, to do exactly this sort of social media monitoring. After the ACLU learned of that relationship and disclosed that Geofeedia marketing materials targeted “activists” and “unions” as “overt threats” for which its platform should be used for monitoring, the reaction of the public was severe enough that many social media sites simply disallowed Geofeedia access from their platforms, rendering them useless to Chicago government.

In fact, it was that very occurrence that Chicago used to justify hiding its vendor relationship from the ACLU currently.

Social media sites then subsequently cut off Geofeedia’s access to their users’ data. The City claimed that this public reaction justified hiding future vendors from public view.

What the ACLU was able to get out of the city is that it used another company, Dunami, for surveillance through 2018. The ACLU has filed another FOIA request to get any information on a current contract, if one exists. Meanwhile, the above reasoning — that Chicago should shield the vendor it uses to monitor the social media habits of its own citizens because the last time the ACLU got that info people didn’t like it — is the kind of reasoning only the most brazenly corrupt regimes could possibly make.

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Comments on “Chicago Tried To Justify Not Informing ACLU Of Social Media Monitoring Partner By Saying ACLU Is Really Mean”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t live in Chicago, but it is disgusting to behold

I am not your normal republican. I am gay and I live in Tennessee. Throughout most of my life I supported democrats and the left. I thought because I was gay I had to support them. I was told Republicans were out to take my rights away. I feared the Republicans from the day I found out I was gay. When I was about to graduate high school I watched Trump’s speech for the first time. Remember at this point I was full support of Hillary. I felt something from what he said. I felt safe for the first time. I then started looking into the Republican party and found that they don’t hate me. I found great friends who still support me to this day. I voted for Trump. For the first time in my life I could see the lies that the democrats told me. I don’t have to vote democrat if I’m gay. I was attacked by people on the left because I left the Democratic Party. This is why I #walkaway from the left.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I don’t live in Chicago, but it is disgusting to behol

Fast forward to today and the Trump campaign – Truthfully I was never really a Trump fan – I agreed with his ideas but wasn’t a fan…I voted for him because in my mind I was voting for the lesser of two evils. I was wrong about Trump. I truly believe he does want to make America great again and although he doesn’t always say things or do things that are politically correct his intentions are real and he’s following through with what he promised to do. The hate and bashing from the left sickens me. I actually had a family member publicly state that if any of his friends or relatives voted for Trump they were no longer allowed around his children. How is that OK? I just don’t understand any of it. This movement is refreshing and it is inspiring to read stories that align with the way I feel about our country and our President.

Must add…this is me…I am not a bot or something crazy like that. Just a single mom who loves her country and wants to make it a better place for my children and future generations

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I don’t live in Chicago, but it is disgusting to b

How is that OK? I just don’t understand any of it.

Let’s see… Trump advocates harassment of women by grabbing their genitalia and is considers debunked anti-vaccine ideology to be factual. Two strikes. You’re not doing so good, are you?

And by the way… you forgot to change your IP address, genius.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I don’t live in Chicago, but it is disgusting

I was at a job site back in 2016 and I was asked if I voted. I said, “No, I wasn’t very political and not really interested in the whole race for the White House.” The supervisor at the job site was this Hispanic guy and started telling me that I’d better vote for Hillary Clinton because Trump was out to prevent me from making it in this world. I laughed a lil and said , “The Apprentice guy with the bad hair? No way.” He said, “seriously.“ I told him, “Alright, I’ll look into this a**hole.” And thank God I did! I was Red Pilled HARD!!!!! The media’s dishonesty, Chuck Schumer threatening Trump with the intelligence community, the fake stories and twisting of anything Trump said or did. I could not believe what I was seeing. A literal Orwellian display of the deep state unfolding before my eyes. I was an Obama guy. My mom a life long liberal. I couldn’t believe that I had been fooled all along by my party. Never again. Today I am a proud Conservative. I am living proof that Conservatives are not racist or bigoted. I am of biracial black/Asian heritage. My wife who I love with everything is Muslim. Bring on the dishonesty libs, I live my life every day proving you wrong. God speed President Trump, and please continue to Make America great again.

bobob says:

As much as I’d like to be outraged by this as more abuse by the police, a person of average intelligence ought to have easily figured out that publicizing one’s lifestory might result in someone reading it or using it in a way that might not be benign interest. You can’t blame social media for providing people with the opportunity to be stupid. If privacy matters, don’t tell the world what you’re up to. I can fault the police a great deal for some of the shit they pull, but trolling through stuff people willing put out there to be read (and/or trusting is not one of them.

A simple solution is to not use social media. Just because someone has an idea and creates something (like facebook) doesn’t mean the idea was a good idea (aside from the personal monetary potential in exploiting stupid people).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

My name is Billy. I am a gay drag queen living in southern CA. I walked away. I witnessed drag superstars preach against "hate and racism" on stage, and then go back stage and use the N word and talk about Mexicans. I watched the media lie. My own community was racist against my black husband. They disgust me. They are phony and dangerous.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:

Thanks for sharing, Billy.

There is a great article on the web about how the Anti Defamation League exploits gay people, and other minority communities, on one hand, using them as unpaid propaganda agents, and as a Twitter Outrage posse, while on the other hand throwing the LGBT etc under the bus, like a used kleenex.

They have all the bases covered: raise an issue in a minority community that benefits their chosen minority status, and then, when their useful idiots figure it out, cry anti -semitism, or some other paranoid, delusional reference.

But here is their basic MO, of infiltration, and cooption -and disgusting hypocrisy, as police -state rats, informants, and pre -emptive paranoiacs :

Rog S. says:

Re: sometimes, people must use SOCMED

In a dream world, sure, the poor, the politically active, and the disenfranchised wouldnt post anything to social media.

But your "turn a blind eye at surveillance capitalism allied with the full blown police state ”approach is quite interesting -in the way that FBI manufactured terrorists are also interesting.

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear only works for rich folks, bro/sis /bot unspecified.

bobob says:

Re: Re: sometimes, people must use SOCMED

I’m not turning a blind eye toward anything and I’m not one of those notyhing to fear nothing to hide morons. You have a reesponsibility to know what you are doing and protect yourself. In particular:

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and will never be. The functionaries of every government have the propensities to command at will the liberties and properties of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves."

–Thomas Jefferson

You have to play a role in maintaining your own privacy, not just for your own benefit, but because by doing so, you benefit everyone else. Just because technology exists, doesn’t mean everyone knows how to use it safely. It’s your responsibility to know how to use something. People learn to fly planes because those who don’t usually don’t end up well. If you want to do something without negative effects, put in the effort to understand how to do it right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

might result in someone reading it or using it in a way that might not be benign interest.

Where is exactly is the line? Clearly you believe that posts on social media are "out there to be read," but there’re a lot of things that are available to those willing to put in the effort. For example, no matter how much you don’t use social media, other people do. Is it reasonable to not interact with anyone who uses social media? Or perhaps to inform everyone around you to be careful not to include you in their posts?

We could take a step back. Going to a club is inherently a social activity. You are there to be seen, in much the same way social media is there to be read. Is it reasonable for the police to track all activity in and around clubs?

Or another step, the entire point of attending a political rally or protest is to be seen and heard. There is quite literally no other reason to attend such an event. Is it reasonable for police to track everyone who attends such events?

Another step, it is obvious to everyone attending a sporting event (or comic con, etc.) that there are many, many cameras present and that (in all likelihood), at least one of those cameras is pointing at you at any given time. Is it reasonable for police to track everyone at those events?

Another step, it’s clear to everyone walking around in cities that there are a lot of cameras around. Is it reasonable for police to track everyone in a city whenever they are outside?

Another step, it’s clear to people that cell phones have fairly sophisticated location measurements, and often can track people reasonably accurately within buildings. Is it reasonable for police to track everyone carrying a phone around inside of a building?

Another step, it’s clear to everyone who drives that traffic cameras are pretty common. Is it reasonable for police to track all vehicles on the road?

All of these (and many more which I’m too lazy to write out) are situations in which either 1) people do them specifically to be seen/heard or 2) situations in which only "stupid people" would not realize they could be seen/heard. And yet, combined, these specific situations allow what is essentially 24/7 surveillance of most of the US population.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Is it reasonable for the police to track all activity in and around clubs?"

If you think police don’t do that, you aren’t living in the real world. Protect yourself and assume that they do to avoid being surprised. Should they? Well, I’m not sure I’d want to have to win a court case based on privacy concerns.

"Is it reasonable for police to track everyone who attends such events?"

Again, assume that they do. If the point is being seen, you are aware that acheiving your objective doesn’t assure you of selecting your observers. Wear masks and attack laws that make disguises illegal.

"Is it reasonable for police to track everyone at those events?"

It is if you permit surveillance cameras to be there in the first place. Stop the problem at the source. As for people using phones for cameras or whatever, those same phones are what has started helping keep police in line.

"Another step, it’s clear to everyone walking around in cities that there are a lot of cameras around. Is it reasonable for police to track everyone in a city whenever they are outside?"

Same answer as above. Focus on getting rid of surveillance cameras used for that purpose and things light red light cameras. Once you allow the data to exist, the use of that data is a total crap shoot.

"Another step, it’s clear to everyone who drives that traffic cameras are pretty common. Is it reasonable for police to track all vehicles on the road?"

Of course not, but focussing on getting rid of the cameras is the proper way to stop that. If the data do not exist, it cannot be misused. If the cameras are allowed to exist, the use of the data is beyond anyone’s control. It’s no different than social media. Don’t provide the data and it can’t be misused.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I would suggest using a prepaid phone and NOT using ANY phone as a repository of personal data. While a lot of people might find keeping their lives on their phones convenient, the people who founded the US made it pretty clear in their writing that liberty was not something easily achieved or maintained. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, "Those would give up a little liberty for a little convenience deserve neither.

If you use any technology at all, it’s your responsibility to understand the potential risks you are assuming, unless your goal is to attempt to make a point in a lawsuit after suffering the consequences.

It’s also everyone’s responsibility to undertaand technology so that legislation addresses the underlying problems instead of lots of bandaid patches. We should be focussing on ensuring we have a right to encrypt and to not disclose the encryption keys so that what you have on your phone is only useful to you.

Worrying about who is allowed to look at your phone before worrying about whether or not looking at your phone would be useful is putting the cart before the horse. If encryption were commonplace, the government would have far less interest in examining it, for there would be no point in doing so.

Rog S. says:

Blue line Chicago dogs

….whats alittle corruption, and 24/7 monitoring, aka gang stalking of entire cities, compared to eating a Chicago Hot Dog off the blue line?

Ben Franklin said: those who would sacrifice social media monitoring, for the safety of eating a Chi-dog, as CPD SUVs surround you, and follow you to, and from the hotdog stand, as they monitor your Tweets in real time, deserve neither liberty, or hot dogs, slathered in alien green pickle relish, hot peppers, and tomatoes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Blue line Chicago dogs

National discussions like this are important and timely, especially when considered in light of Ben Franklin’s history and character. He went to Paris for a long time, and I think it changed him regarding both love and jealousy, and how they relate. And yet, however just these sentiments will be allowed to be, we have already sufficient indications that it will happen in this as in all former cases of great national discussion. A torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose. To judge from the conduct of the opposite parties, we shall be led to conclude that they will mutually hope to evince the justness of their opinions, and to increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives. An enlightened zeal for the energy and efficiency of government will be stigmatized as the offspring of a temper fond of despotic power and hostile to the principles of liberty. An over-scrupulous jealousy of danger to the rights of the people, which is more commonly the fault of the head than of the heart, will be represented as mere pretense and artifice, the stale bait for popularity at the expense of the public good. It will be forgotten, on the one hand, that jealousy is the usual concomitant of love, and that the noble enthusiasm of liberty is apt to be infected with a spirit of narrow and illiberal distrust. On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.

Commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants. Think about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

We may refer to the American Constitution itself for a solution. Think about when we have elections. It may be asked, Why, then, could not a time have been fixed in the Constitution for more frequent elections, if the representative government hides it’s activities from the electorate? As the most zealous adversaries of the election of the convention in this situation are, in general, not less zealous admirers of the constitution of a State, the question may be retorted, and it may be asked, Why was not a time for the like purpose fixed in the constitution of this State? No better answer can be given than that it was a matter which might safely be entrusted to legislative discretion; and that if a time had been appointed, it might, upon experiment, have been found less convenient than some other time. The same answer may be given to the question put on the other side. And it may be added that the supposed danger of a gradual change being merely speculative, it would have been hardly advisable upon that speculation to establish, as a fundamental point, what would deprive several States of the convenience of having the elections for their own governments and for the national government at the same epochs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Candor will oblige us to admit that even Shiva may be actuated by upright intentions; and it cannot be doubted that much of the opposition to Shiva which has made its appearance, or may hereafter make its appearance, will spring from sources, blameless at least, if not respectable–the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment of Shiva, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right about Shiva. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question. Were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized attacks on Shiva. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

TFG says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Writing tip: Avoid walls of text, especially in digital formats. They are difficult to read and will discourage people from attempting to do so, and your voice will be unlikely to reach anyone.

Having attempt to read what you wrote, I’m not seeing an actual point. Care to summarize your position and what you are trying to say?

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

To play devil's advocate...

I think "the ACLU is really mean" is mischaracterizing their response. Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the city needs to monitor its citizens’ social media to keep them safe. If their current vendor gets disclosed then there’s a good chance that vendor will get cut off from social media feeds (as has happened in the past), thus preventing them from monitoring their citizens, thus preventing them from taking a measure to keep them safe. Thus, to not get cut off from the feeds, they need to keep the vendor secret.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: To play devil's advocate...

Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the city needs to monitor its citizens’ social media to keep them safe.

Or peek through their windows, listen at closed doors, make sure that someone with a badge is there to listen in at any other otherwise private conversation… really, there’s just so many things they could be doing to ‘keep people safe’, what’s a little mass-surveillance of social media?

(Mostly) sarcasm aside, the reason the previous vendor got cut off is that people objected to what was going on, and it was significant enough that social media decided to cut them off. If the general public, which the government is supposed to represent, doesn’t care for said government combing through their social media and spending hefty amounts doing it, then I’d say it’s just too damn bad for the government, and they shouldn’t be able to hide their actions simply because they know the likely response by the public is to be told ‘no, you can’t do that’ again.

bobob says:

Re: To play devil's advocate...

No, the police are part of the executive branch. Their function is to enforce laws. Doing so may make you safer, but you have a responsibility for your own safety. I would think that your own safety ought to be right up there at the top of your concerns, so insist on transparency so you can make informed decisions.

TFG says:

Re: Re:

No, no, and again, no.

While it is important for the individual to be both aware and vigilant in the protection of their interests, it is equally, if not more so, important to ensure that groups that use public funds and are ostensibly intended to serve the public be held accountable.

It is fair to point out that law enforcement has long been trending away from being an actual public service, and in many cases it may never have been one, but the point is that it is supposed to be one, at least in the view of the public. If it is not, then why should we not fight to change it to be so?

If surveillance is against the public will, why should the public be held solely accountable for keeping the surveillers out with their own individual actions? Why should the public not public rail against the unwelcome intrusion?

Don’t just keep your shit private. Keep your shit private and tell the police to Get the Fuck Out of social media surveillance. There is no reason not to do both.

bobob says:

Re: Re: Re:

As far as I am aware, police aren’t obliged to ignore what is readily seen by any other member of the public. I’m not a fan of the police, but I’m even less of a fan of the ineducable. On the plus side, there seem to be quite a few stupid people who post selfies committing crimes and/or of stuff they stole, etc., and I’m perfectly happy to have those people put someplace they can’t pass on their genes.

Seriously, reading something posted in a public forum is there for anyone to read. So, if you don’t allow the police to read what is posted publicly for everyone to read, I guess they’ll have to stop because everyone knows the police never do anything they aren’t allowed to do.


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