George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police—the latest in a grim drumbeat of similar deaths over many years—has sparked worldwide protests denouncing racism and law enforcement’s abuse of power.
Floyd’s May 25 death may have gone largely unnoticed had it not been recorded by multiple smartphone-wielding bystanders, whose footage forced America to finally reckon with the dangers Black Americans unjustly face simply when leaving their house. And as police departments across the United States have responded to largely peaceful protests with disproportionate violence, smartphone footage has provided crucial evidence refuting official descriptions of harrowing events.
Even as protesters turn to their smartphones as a means to record their experiences on the ground, those same devices can be used against them. Law enforcement groups have digital surveillance tools, like fake cell phone towers and facial recognition technology, that can be used to identify protestors and monitor their movements and