The Surveillance State: Twitter and Data Mining


Twitter has barred Dataminr, a service that analyzes tweets from across the globe to inform users about news events, from providing its information to US intelligence agencies, according to the Wall Street Journal. The social network has not confirmed that it cut the agencies off from the service, which claims to have informed clients about the Brussels terror attack in March 10 minutes ahead of news media, but the WSJ cites a senior US intelligence official and other people familiar with the matter.

The agencies had reportedly used Dataminr’s service for two years before Twitter decreed that it must stop, with sources saying Twitter was concerned about appearing too close to the American intelligence community. Twitter said in a statement that its “data is largely public,”  specifying that the “US government may review public accounts on its own, like any user could,” but did not comment on how Dataminr had come to be selling information to intelligence agencies in the first place. The WSJ notes that Twitter has a policy banning third-party companies such as Dataminr from selling information to government bodies for the purposes of surveillance.

Dataminr — in which Twitter owns a 5 percent stake — is the only company Twitter allows to see a real-time feed of every tweet on its network and sell that information on to clients. Intelligence agencies reportedly got access to Dataminr’s product when the company received investment funding from In-Q-Tel — a venture capital firm that invests in companies whose products and services benefit the CIA and other intelligence agencies — but Twitter reportedly told Dataminr it wanted that link severed when the pilot program ended recently. In a statement provided to The Verge, Twitter said that it has “never authorized Dataminr or any third party to sell data to a government or intelligence agency for surveillance purposes.” The company said this was “a longstanding Twitter policy, not a new development.”

Read the Remainder at The Verge


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