The Mall of America has hundreds of retail shops, eateries, and attractions featuring Barbie, Lego and Star Trek. A little less obvious was the fake Facebook page the Bloomington, Minnesota bastion of commerce and tourism allegedly was using to monitor protesters.
Documents obtained by The Intercept indicate that security staff at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota used a fake Facebook account to monitor local Black Lives Matter organizers, befriend them, and obtain their personal information and photographs without their knowledge. Evidence of the fake Facebook account was found in a cache of files provided by the Mall of America to Bloomington officials after a large Black Lives Matter event at the mall on December 20 protesting police brutality.
According to the Intercept, the Facebook account was deleted soon after the publication contacted Mall of America.
The Mall of America sent Advertising Age a statement that neither confirms nor denies the allegations:
The safety and security of our guests is the number one priority at Mall of America. To ensure that safety, our security teams use a careful combination of physical means, some of which our guests can see and many of which they cannot see, as well as digital means such as social media. We do not follow individuals or groups based on political viewpoints however we do track conversations that may pose a security concern. These conversations may include unauthorized illegal protests, potential criminal activity or harmful acts on Mall of America property. For obvious reasons, we don't go into detail about all of our security measures. The goal is, and always will be, to protect Mall guests and create a safe and enjoyable environment for the whole family.
As retailers embrace smartphone payment methods and mobile beacons for tracking consumer footpaths, the notion of places like the Mall of America catfishing people on Facebook only boosts privacy concerns associated with modern technology. It's still unlikely that your local mega mall will surreptitiously use technology to assemble a big secret file on you. But it just got easier to imagine.
Oh, and whoever manages the Hot Topic store at Mall of America, you may want to hide those anarchy symbol patches before you get a new friend request from a stranger.