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

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

“This kind of informal multi-agency coordination encourages ‘policy shopping,’ where the agency with the least restrictive privacy rules can oversee that other agencies couldn’t,” said Jake Wiener, a fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center and an expert on the subject. area of ​​fusion centers and protest surveillance. “That generally means more surveillance, less surveillance, and more risk of harassment or political arrest.” Furthermore, Intrepid could “provide a forum where many agencies can contribute, but no single agency is responsible for oversight and control”, making it “ripe for abuse”.

It’s unclear where Duggan’s and the other reporters’ personal information went after the Minnesota State Patrol shared it through Intrepid Response. Gordon Shank, a public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol, says the photos were accessible to the Minnesota Fusion Center and the Department of Natural Resources through Intrepid Response. The Minnesota State Patrol eventually saved the photos as PDFs in an electronic folder owned by the agency. Shank also says the photos have not been analyzed and have not yet been removed due to pending lawsuits.

An “extremely disturbing” incident

On the night of April 16, police photographed Duggan’s face, full body and media records. The information accompanying the images includes the coordinates of the location 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 state identification card.

JD Duggan took this photo while the police were shooting journalists.


Duggan and other eyewitnesses say several dozen journalists were involved in the cataloging activities. We have independently confirmed that six journalists were photographed in the same manner as Duggan, and they all called the incident worrying. Many said they asked agents why their data was collected and where it was stored, but the agents declined to answer.

“We committed no crime, and yet records were kept of us. I believe this is a step towards authoritarianism and has a chilling effect on the free press,” said Chris Taylor, a freelancer who works for the Minneapolis Television Network and was photographed by Minnesota State Patrol. “It’s against the ethos of being American.”

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

All the incidents appeared 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 broadcasters 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† that same day, a temporary restraining order was issued to the Minnesota State Patrol. The state patrol has publicly responded through a press release issued by Operation Safety Net, stating that officers “photographed journalists and their credentials and driver’s licenses at the scene to speed up the identification process… This process was implemented in response to media concerns expressed last year about the time taken to identify and release journalists.”

The tactic “appears to serve no law enforcement purpose other than to intimidate reporters doing their jobs,” said Parker Higgins, director of advocacy for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which has investigated the incident. “And now, almost a full year later, there are still no clear answers about why the photos were taken, how the images were shared or stored, and whether that data is still in law enforcement databases.”

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