Big data, Surveillance, Permission Control

Everybody knows about the risks that come with signing up for social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many others. When we use these social media sites were given permission and invite the owners of these companies to our personal data. Sites like Facebook are well known for using our data in order to personalise advertisements and to track our movements on and offline.

Geofeedia – a controversial social media monitoring tools put together to pull social media feeds through APIs – was used to monitor Ferguson and Baltimore. Police were given access to the social media sites to user data by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in order to track the protests in Baltimore and Ferguson. The ability for individuals to access the social media sites allowed for the quick distribution of content.


The companies involved provided data which included the locations of the users of these sites to Geofeedia, who then analysed the data and delivered surveillance information to 500 law enforcement agencies. Geofeedia shows the popularity of governments using these programs in order to monitor crime and civil unrest in countries.


Geofeedia was discovered to have entered into agreements with the companies Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in order to gain access to the user’s data and in turn gain developer level access to information. Geofeedia was available to access the three company’s sites in order to:

  1. Facebook – Access topic feed API that let the company get a hold of posts centred around specific hashtags, places and events
  2. Instagram – Access the applications programing interface that allowed for the company to access the feeds of users and also locations
  3. Twitter – Access to search the data bases of tweets

However, after finding out how Geofeedia was using the data that was available to them the media sites restricted access when presented with the findings. The ability of a company to easily gain access to the data of these sites is worrying, but I guess as previously states signing up with the media sites means accepting the risks involved even if that means compromising your private data.





2 thoughts on “Big data, Surveillance, Permission Control

  1. Great job on the blog. Your use of imagery really helped me understand it and enjoy the blog a lot more. It was interesting referencing the monitoring of the Baltimore riots by the police, It feels like an invasion of privacy, however if they are using it for the right purposes, like controlling potential riots and whatnot, i think I’m a little bit more inclined to let them monitor the stuff that people do on the internet. Well done


  2. I had no idea about the police’ online involvement in the Baltimore riots! Really good example and I liked the meme. Good explanation of big data and surveillance through that example.


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