A Chicago data services company that provides police with a way to keep tabs on social media users cut half its staff after an ACLU report led to the company losing access to data from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Geofeedia has let go 31 of its 60 employees, mostly from its Chicago sales office, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Civil rights and privacy advocates worry that government surveillance using services like Geofeedia can violate free speech rights and target minority communities, especially in the wake of protests against police-involved shootings of African-Americans.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained public records showing that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram provided Geofeedia with special access to their user data, which was used for geo-location, among other uses. A subsequent ACLU report said police had used the platform to track protests and other large gatherings.
The Chicago Police Department is among the company’s more than 500 customers, which also include media, corporate and marketing operations.
Twitter said Tuesday it would no longer provide Geofeedia access to its user data. Facebook said Geofeedia may have violated its terms of service, and was suspending its access to data. Instagram cut off its data stream as well.
A company statement said Geofeedia wasn’t created to impact civil liberties.
“Following these suspensions, we have decided to scale back our business and focus on a variety of innovations that will allow us to serve our customers and continue our rapid growth trajectory as a leading real-time analytics and alerting platform,” the statement said.
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(Image via Geofeedia.com)