In April of last year, a freelance photojournalist named J.D. Duggan was covering a protest in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, when things took a disturbing turn. A few days earlier, a police officer in Brooklyn Center had shot and killed 20 year-old Daunte Wright, and a community wounded and incensed by George Floyd’s murder less than a year earlier took to the streets.

As Duggan was documenting the demonstrations, they say a “couple hundred” officers surrounded a group of protestors and journalists and told everyone to get on the ground. Officers sorted the press from the protestors, walked them to a parking lot, and began photographing them, one by one, with cell phones. Duggan estimates that a few dozen journalists were cataloged in the same manner that night before being released.  

“I asked where the pictures would go,” Duggan says. “And the officer told me that it just goes into their system. He didn’t really give me any details. He said they have an app.” 

Duggan filed a personal data request with the Minnesota State Patrol on April 17. On July 19, the state patrol provided three pages that included multiple photos of them, the geographical coordinates of where the photos were taken, the angle of the camera, and information about the officer using the application. MIT Technology Review requested the rest of the document in which Duggan’s personal data appeared on January 21, 2022, as well as information about the collection, retention, and dissemination of Duggan’s information. The state patrol disclosed that the data was collected using a tool called Intrepid Response, which appended geolocation data to the images. Another journalist who was photographed that night, Dominick Sokotoff, also obtained his personal data from the state patrol. It appears to have been collected and stored in the same way as Duggan’s.

Intrepid Response, a product of Intrepid Networks, provides an easy means to capture and share information that identifies whoever is on the other side of an officer’s smartphone. The app was critical to the law enforcement agencies that assembled and analyzed information about people at the Brooklyn Center protests, allowing them to almost instantly de-anonymize attendees and keep tabs on their movements.

The photos and data shared in real time via the app found their way into one of three known data repositories that MIT Technology Review has identified which include photos and personal information about individuals at protests and appear to be accessible to multiple agencies, including federal groups. None of the other journalists who were photographed while covering the protests appeared to have been charged with any crimes or told they were suspects while their data was being collected. 

Policing agencies in Minnesota compiled the shared documents, spreadsheets, and other databases as part of Operation Safety Net (OSN), a multiagency effort to respond to protests stemming from George Floyd’s murder that has expanded far beyond its original publicly stated scope and appears to be ongoing. 

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Several agencies involved with OSN have access to Intrepid Response, including the Minnesota State Patrol, the state’s Department of Natural Resources, and the Minnesota Fusion Center, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Fusion centers are controversial data sharing centers that analyze and disseminate information across local and federal law enforcement agencies, the National Guard, and others. Intrepid Networks’ website reports that the Saint Paul Police Department uses the Intrepid Response software, and the company’s marketing materials feature a testimonial from the department’s assistant chief of police commenting on the role of the app during last year’s unrest. It’s likely that federal agencies were also able to access information collected via Intrepid Response and shared with the Minnesota Fusion Center. 

An email to MIT Technology Review from the Minnesota State Patrol in response to inquiries regarding the photographing of reporters, which revealed the involvement of Intrepid Response for the first time.

Like Slack for SWAT

Sold by AT&T, Verizon, and others, Intrepid Response is a

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By: Sam Richards, Tate Ryan-Mosley
Title: The secret police: Inside the app Minnesota police used to collect data on journalists at protests
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Published Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2022 11:00:00 +0000

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