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Is the Government Monitoring Your Social Media Accounts?

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on April 25, 2022

Even when you use your privacy settings, your social media accounts are not totally private. In most cases, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media companies will voluntarily share your information and personal messages with law enforcement agencies, whether they have a warrant or not.

Several agencies of the federal government routinely collect and examine millions of pieces of information from innocent Americans on a regular basis, all in the name of fighting terrorism. There is very little oversight for this activity.

In many cases, the government partners with private businesses to collect massive amounts of data, subjecting people’s personal information to unknown operators who could be using it for unscrupulous reasons.

A Lot of Agencies Are Watching

Government surveillance of the social media accounts of private citizens has skyrocket since the unrest on January 6, 2021. In the name of fighting terrorism, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) routinely review the social media accounts of people with no prior criminal activity. These investigations can be initiated even when there is no factual basis for believing someone has committed a crime.

The DHS and FBI even use social media activity to monitor protest groups like Black Lives Matter, classifying them as “Black Identity Extremists.” People who provide legal and social assistance to Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants have also had their social media accounts monitored by the government.

In many cases, the government agencies conducting these activities won’t even reveal their criteria for selecting the subjects of their investigations. Government surveillance of social media is rampant, and it includes the following agencies:

  • U.S. Postal Service
  • Social Security Administration
  • U.S. Marshals Service
  • IRS
  • DEA
  • ATF
  • ICE
  • FBI
  • DHS
  • U.S. State Department
  • Office of Intelligence & Analysis
  • Customs and Border Control

Who’s Looking at Your Personal Information?

The personal information you share with your friends and loved ones on social media is sometimes highly sensitive. It may include intimate details about your life, your personal and religious beliefs, your network of friends, your health, and your sexuality.

Social media information collected by the government is often shared among various departments and agencies. More disturbing, they may also share this information with foreign governments and private corporations.

The FBI recently signed a $27 million agreement with Babel X software. The private company will be using AI technology to scour millions of social media accounts based on key words that the government finds threatening.

A Huge Threat to Your Freedom

The collection of social media information by the government is largely unregulated. And it generally provides little practical information to investigators. In many ways, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. During testimony before the United States Senate, a former acting chief of DHS’s Office of Intel­li­gence & Analysis said:

Actual intent to carry out viol­ence can be diffi­cult to discern from the angry, hyper­bolic — and consti­tu­tion­ally protec­ted — speech and inform­a­tion commonly found on social media.

Unfortunately, this massive government surveillance goes largely unregulated, despite the fact that it poses a serious threat to our civil liberties, particularly the rights of free assembly and free speech guarded by the First Amendment, the prohibition against unreasonable searches covered by the Fourth Amendment, and the right to equal protection under the law covered by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

World Class Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you are facing any type of federal prosecution, you’ll want to have a skilled attorney by your side. At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, our legal team has considerable experience in federal court. We have earned a reputation for legal excellence and are proud of our many successes in criminal court cases.

Call us today at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a free case evaluation.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense