We are suing the Chicago Police Department (CPD) seeking records related to a CPD social media monitoring program. The program was announced by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Police Superintendent David Brown in the wake of historic protests led by Chicago residents, protesting the murder of George Floyd and calling for an end to police violence against Black and Brown people in Chicago.
In light of the City’s dark history of surveillance and infiltration of organizations disfavored by City Hall, the announced program raised red flags for many Chicagoans. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, CPDs notorious Red Squad conducted a widespread program of surveillance against civil rights, racial justice, and anti-Vietnam advocates. More recently, CPD withheld the name of Dunami—a software maker the agency used for social media monitoring for years (2014-2018). The name was only revealed after a settlement of a previous ACLU of Illinois lawsuit.
In August 2020, the ACLU of Illinois asked the CPD for records on the social media monitoring program, including records describing the purpose of the program, the use of information collected from social media accounts, any assistance CPD received from state or federal agencies, the people who had access to social media information, and the supervision of the social media monitoring program.
CPD refused to provide these records, claiming that the release of any information about the social media monitoring would create a “clear and present danger” to the community, and even jeopardize the safety of officers—even though the Mayor and Superintendent had publicly touted the program last year. Our lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the CPD to produce the records.