Inside the app, Minnesota police collect data on journalists at protests

Intrepid Response allows officers to collect data that can be analyzed in a variety of ways, and our investigation found that officers made watchlists of people attending protests. The Minnesota Fusion Center has access to facial recognition technology through the National 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 forensic imaging technology, another facial recognition term.

“This kind of informal inter-agency coordination encourages ‘policy buying’, where the agency with the least stringent privacy rules can do surveillance that other agencies wouldn’t be able to,” says Jake Viner, of the ePrivacy Clearinghouse. and an expert on synthesis centers and protest observation. “That means more surveillance overall, less oversight, and more risk of harassment or political arrests.” In addition, Intrepid can provide “a forum where many agencies can contribute, but no single agency is responsible for oversight and audit”, making it “ripe for abuse”.

It is unclear where the personal data of Duggan and other journalists went after the Minnesota State Patrol shared it via Intrepid Response. Gordon Shank, public affairs officer for the Minnesota State Patrol, says the photos were made available to the Minnesota Fusion Center and the Department of Natural Resources through Intrepid Response. The Minnesota State Patrol eventually stored the PDF photos in an electronic folder owned by the agency. Shank also says no analytics has been done on the photos and they have not yet been removed due to a pending lawsuit.

“Extremely disturbing” incident

On the night of April 16, police photographed Duggan’s face, his full body, and documents for the media. The information accompanying the images includes the coordinates of the location where the photographs were taken, a timestamp, and a map of the nearest area. Sokotov’s file, also dated April 16, 2021, contains the same data in the same format, in addition to images of his government-issued ID.

JD Duggan took this photo when the police were photographing journalists.

JD Duggan

Duggan and other eyewitnesses say that dozens of journalists were involved in the cataloging work. We independently confirmed that six journalists were photographed in the same way as Duggan, and they all described the incident as disturbing. Many said they asked officers why their data was being collected and where it was stored, but the officers refused to answer.

“We did not commit any crimes, and yet records were kept on us. I think this is a step in the direction of authoritarianism and has a chilling effect on the free press,” says Chris Taylor, a freelancer working for the Minneapolis Television Network, who was photographed by a Minnesota state patrol. “It goes against the ideal of being an American.”

Sokotoff, student photojournalist at the University of Michigan. wrote about the incident live. “It was unlike anything I had ever seen and was very unsettling,” he says.

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

The tactic “doesn’t seem to serve any law enforcement purpose other than to intimidate reporters doing their jobs,” said Parker Higgins, director of advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, who investigated the incident. “And now, almost a year later, there are still no clear answers to why the photographs were taken, how the images were transferred or stored, and whether this data remains in law enforcement databases.”

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