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LAPD's mass collection of social media data alarms activists: 'This is like stop and frisk'

The Los Angeles Police Department has reportedly instructed its officers to record the social media information of every interviewed civilian — even those "who are not arrested or accused of a crime," The Guardian reports, according to records obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice. 

What's more, an internal memo shows Police Chief Michael Moore warning officers that supervisors would review their "field interview cards" — the paper on which the social accounts, among other things, are disclosed — to ensure they were complete. Such broad scale collection has alarmed activists and civil liberties pundits, concerned about the "potential for mass surveillance of civilians without justification," writes the Guardian.

"There are real dangers about police having all of this social media identifying information at their fingertips," said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, a deputy director at the Brennan Center. When officers obtain these usernames, "it allows for a huge expansion of network surveillance," she added. 

The Brennan Center reportedly analyzed 40 other U.S. police agencies and was unable to locate another department that "required social media collection on interview cards," though many have not publicly disclosed those records, the Guardian notes. Said Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition: "This is like stop and frisk," and it's "happening with the clear goal of surveillance."

In other instances, police have asked civilians and interviewees for their social security numbers, claiming "it must be provided" under federal law. Kathleen Kim, a Loyola law professor and immigrants' rights expert, said such a question violates the spirit of sanctuary laws preventing officers from inquring about immigration status. 

On Tuesday, the LAPD told the Guardian that the field interview card policy was being updated, but "declined to provide further details." Read more at The Guardian.