The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants social media companies to turn over more user data to them so they can “proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests.”

The Wall Street Journal further reports that third-party vendors have been asked to put forward technological solutions that will enable the bulk harvesting of social media data from companies like Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook, which has just agreed to pay a $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for mishandling user data, may yet find itself pressed on a totally different front when the FBI comes to visit.

Charlie Osborne filed this report for ZDNet:

The law enforcement agency says the data collected will be used “to proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests. “The request was made several weeks before the most recent shootings in the US involving cities in Texas and Ohio.

US President Trump blamed social media as the providers of areas for “disturbed minds” to become radicalized and called for the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to work with vendors “to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”

Law enforcement has requested the means to “obtain the full social media profile of persons-of-interest and their affiliation to any organization or groups,” to keep track of users based on their neighborhood, and keyword searches, among other tool functions. Vendors have until August 27 to submit their proposals.

While the FBI believes that such tools can work in harmony with privacy safeguards and civil liberties, the mass collection of names, photos, and IDs — when combined with information from other sources — may do just the opposite.


Among Facebook and Instagram’s policies is a ban imposed on developers for “[using] data obtained from us to provide tools that are used for surveillance.” The changes, introduced in 2017, were made after an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) investigation found that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram data was being used in surveillance cases related to Black Lives Matter protests.

Sources familiar with the matter told the WSJ that the solicitation would likely violate these rules. Facebook may find itself involved in a tug-of-war between the two arms of the US government; one that wishes to use the platform for spying, and another that wishes to better protect consumer privacy.