Snaptrends is a social media surveillance company headquartered in Austin, Texas.
According to correspondence between Austin police and the company’s director of sales published by The Austin Chronicle in 2015 Snaptrends “developed its software intelligence system to serve public safety organization [sic] and national intelligence agencies in the United States.”
The same page also states only that the company “may share personal information when we have your consent to do so, when required by law, when required to protect our rights or property, as necessary to complete a transaction you have requested, or for marketing purposes.”
Snaptrends has also touted how the company has helped boost the number of arrests a police department was able to carry out while executing warrants, according to The Daily Dot. It has provided numerous police groups with access to its software.
Last week, Twitter which says it has long had a company policy that prohibits third parties from selling Twitter data in order to surveil users cut ties with Geofeedia for similar reasons.
Geofeedia, which is used by law enforcement groups as well as media companies, is able to collect tweets, Instagrams, Facebook posts and other types of social media in a certain geographic area.
Twitter cut off Geofeedia’s access after an ACLU investigation revealed Geofeedia had marketed its software to police departments as a way to track activists and protesters. Facebook and Instagram had also recently done the same.
Geofeedia and Snaptrends are just two of many social media surveillance companies. Several provide services to law enforcement.
Companies and products such as Media Sonar, Beware and Digital Stakeout have all provided and marketed their services to various law enforcement groups. Beware even assigns a “threat level” to individuals, though the method of assigning those levels is a company secret.
Social media surveillance is just one form of surveillance law enforcement throughout the country use to track civilians, little of which the public is generally aware of.
These various types of surveillance often have a disproportionate impact on black communities.
Police use of cell site simulators commonly known as Stingrays allow officers to collect cellphone data from phones in a general area where the simulators are deployed. The simulators are also known to disrupt phone service in those areas.