A program by the Department of Homeland Security to track journalists, news outlets and social media accounts is dead.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center said in a Stipulation of Settlement and Dismissal the DHS affirmed it is not using the “Media Monitoring Services” described in a proposal last year.
“Should the agency decide in the future to use the Media Monitoring Services or a substantially similar media monitoring tool, the proper privacy compliance documentation will be completed, as required by law and DHS policy, and published as required by law,” the court filing stated.
DHS also agreed to pay EPIC $9,500 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
The federal agency said the agreement is not an admission of liability or fault.
EPIC explained the MMS platform “would have included an ‘unlimited’ database of personal information from journalists and media influencers, including location data, contact information, employer affiliations, and past content.”
EPIC said it went to court last year to block the plan.
The case began when the DHS started hunting for a contractor to develop “Media Monitoring Services,” MMS, a suite of digital tools that would have “continuously tracked and analyzed media coverage and stored large volumes of personally identifiable information about journalists, bloggers, and social media users,” EPIC said.
EPIC cited problems with the risk to privacy and the threat to chill press freedoms.
Last year, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., of the House Committee on Homeland Security, wrote to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asking for information about the plan.
According to his letter, the National Protection and Programs Directorate was the group seeking “media monitoring services to support its ability to track ‘all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security,’ search online news and social media coverage, build targeted media lists, and identify media influencers, ‘among other things.'”
The letter added, “While there may be a legitimate purpose for certain media monitoring services, to date the department has failed to provide one.”