NEW: #BaltimorePolice declines to disclose social media monitoring software and #BaltimoreUprising public surveillance reports
Did you support #BaltimoreUprising or #BlackLivesMatter with a tweet? Do you know if you were monitored by the Baltimore Police Department or any other law enforcement agency?
Are our lawmakers interested in the kinds of software that our law enforcement agencies are using to monitor the public — and whether there are appropriate boundaries in place at the local level? Or do they give our police department carte blanche in the area of domestic surveillance?
These are important questions. We’re pushing for answers — or at least greater transparency. In many ways, Baltimoreans now know more about how the NSA works than their local police department.
In our earlier release of Baltimore city government emails a few weeks back, we saw how a local company prepared social media monitoring reports for free, for government officials — and the company faced serious public backlash. Here’s a portion of the report this company generated and shared with Baltimore officials:
— Adam Jackson (@SmartBlackMan) August 3, 2015
But the question still remained: how did our law enforcement agencies monitor social media channels during the so-called #BaltimoreUprising?
On Aug. 7 this month, we filed a Maryland Public Information Act request with the Baltimore Police Department, seeking invoices on all social media monitoring software used by its Media Relations office and it’s criminal intelligence section. We also sought any reports created by these two offices during the period of civil unrest in Baltimore, from late April to early May.
Today, both of these requests were denied by the Baltimore Police Department’s legal counsel.
In denying our request, the department cited Section 4-351 of the Maryland Public Information Act, which outlines public disclosure rules for “investigations intelligence information” and “security procedures.” See the pertinent section below:
Specifically, the Baltimore Police Department asserts that even acknowledging that the department pays for certain social media monitoring software — and disclosing said software — could “jeopardize” future investigations. From the department’s email response:
To disclose specifics related to that technology, i.e. the provider of said software, could jeopardize law enforcement operations going forward.
This seems like a bit of a legal stretch, but what do you think? Is the Baltimore Police Department stretching this particular exemption too far to deny this records for public inspection?
See the denial letter below: