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Inside app, Minnesota police use data on reporters during protests

Intrepid Response allows officers to collect data that can be analyzed in multiple ways, and our investigation found that officers were compiling watch lists of people participating in protests. The Minnesota Fusion Center has access to facial recognition technology through the Homeland Security Information Network, a secure network that was used during Operation Safety Net. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (another OSN member agency) also uses what it calls investigative imaging technology, another term for facial recognition.

“This kind of informal multi-agency coordination encourages ‘policy buying,’ where the agency with the least restrictive privacy rules can do oversight that other agencies wouldn’t be able to,” says Jake Wiener. , member of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. and an expert on fusion centers and protest monitoring. “That means more surveillance overall, less surveillance and more risk of political harassment or arrests.” Additionally, Intrepid could provide “a forum where many agencies can contribute, but no one agency is responsible for monitoring and auditing,” making it “ripe for abuse.”

It’s unclear where the personal data of Duggan and other reporters went after the Minnesota State Patrol shared it via Intrepid Response. Gordon Shank, a public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol, said the photos were available to the Minnesota Fusion Center and the Department of Natural Resources through Intrepid Response. The Minnesota State Patrol eventually stored the photos in PDF format in an electronic folder owned by the agency. Shank also says no analysis has been performed on the photos and they have not yet been removed due to ongoing litigation.

An “extremely disturbing” incident

On the night of April 16, police photographed Duggan’s face, full body, and media credentials. Information accompanying the images includes coordinates of where the photos were taken, a timestamp and a map of the immediate area. Sokotoff’s file, also dated April 16, 2021, contains the same data in the same format in addition to images of his national identity card.

JD Duggan took this photo while police were photographing reporters.


Duggan and other eyewitnesses say several dozen journalists were included in the cataloging activity. We have independently confirmed that six journalists were photographed in the same way as Duggan, and they all called the incident concerning. Many said they asked officers why their data was collected and where it was stored, but officers refused to answer.

“We committed no crime, yet records were kept on us. I think it’s a step in the direction of authoritarianism and it has a chilling effect on the free press,” says Chris Taylor, a freelancer working for the Minneapolis Television Network who was photographed by the Minnesota State Patrol . “It’s unethical to be an American.”

Sokotoff, a student photojournalist at the University of Michigan, also tweeted the incident live. “It was unlike anything I had seen and was extremely disturbing,” he says.

All of the incidents appeared to have been initiated by the Minnesota State Patrol, which recently settled a lawsuit over its treatment of reporters during the protests. On April 17, more than 25 media companies, including local media outlets Minnesota Public Radio and the Star Tribune as well as the New York Times, Gannett, the Associated Press and Fox/UTC Holdings, signed a letter sent a letter to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz; a temporary restraining order was issued to the Minnesota State Patrol the same day. the the state patrol responded publicly through a press release by Operation Safety Net, which said officers “photographed journalists and their credentials and driver’s licenses at the scene to expedite the identification process. .. This process was implemented in response to media concerns expressed last year about the timing of the identification and release of journalists.

The tactic “does not appear to serve any law enforcement purpose beyond intimidating journalists doing their job,” said Parker Higgins, advocacy director for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which investigated the incident. incident. “And now, almost a year later, there are still no clear answers as to why the photos were taken, how the images were shared or stored, and whether that data remains in databases. law enforcement data.”

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