Minnesota Operation Safety Net
A Technology Review investigation reveals US law enforcement agencies have been monitoring journalists and activists involved in protests in Minnesota following the murder of George Floyd and the trial of Derek Chauvin under the guise of government surveillance programme Operation Safety Net (OSN).
Announced in February 2021 as an attempt to ensure public safety during what was likely to be a volatile and potentially explosive environment surrounding the trial, the investigation reveals the initiative went way beyond its publicly announced scope to include the widespread use of tools to monitor social media, track cell phones, and collect detailed images of people’s faces.
The three-part series details how OSN continued to monitor and gather data on activists and journalists, including people not suspected of committing a crime, almost a year after it had supposedly shut down once Chauvin's trial had ended and the verdict had been announced in April 2021.
Minnesota officials denied that OSN continues. However, the Technology Review discovered presentations, emails and other intelligence indicated otherwise under the name OSN 2.0.
While the demonstrations in Minneapolis during the trial were largely peaceful, OSH faced significant criticism from civil rights groups and prominent national and local politicians regarding what they saw as the quasi-militaristic nature of its response.
Operator: Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office; Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Developer: Department of Homeland Security (DHS); AT&T/Intrepid Networks
Sector: Govt - police; Govt - security
Purpose: Strengthen security; Increase safety
Technology: Social media monitoring; Facial recognition; Drone
Issue: Surveillance; Privacy
Opacity: Governance; Black box; Privacy; Marketing