Twitter blocks access to analytics around its data for US intelligence agencies

Twitter says Dataminr is not authorized to sell the data for surveillance purposes

Twitter has blocked Dataminr from offering analytics around real-time tweets from the social networking site to U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a newspaper report.

The social networking company, which provides Dataminr with real-time access to public tweets, seems to be trying to distance itself from appearing to aid government surveillance, a controversial issue after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the government was collecting information on users through Internet and telecommunications companies.

Executives of Dataminr told intelligence agencies recently that Twitter, which holds around 5 percent of the equity in the startup and provides the data feed, did not the want the company to continue providing the service to the agencies, reported The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, quoting a person familiar with the matter.

Twitter’s move appears to be in line with its policy with regard to the use of its data like tweets by external companies.

“Dataminr uses public Tweets to sell breaking news alerts to companies such as Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones and government agencies such as the World Health Organization, for non-surveillance purposes,” Twitter said in a statement Sunday. “We have never authorized Dataminr or any third party to sell data to a government or intelligence agency for surveillance purposes.”

U.S. intelligence agencies have gained access to Dataminr’s service after In-Q-Tel, a venture capital organization backed by U.S. intelligence agencies, put money in the firm, WSJ said quoting a person familiar with the matter. Twitter is said to have conveyed to Dataminr that it didn’t want to continue the relationship with intelligence agencies at the end of a pilot by the data analysis firm arranged by In-Q-Tel. Dataminr does not figure in the list of In-Q-Tel portfolio companies on its website. 

Intelligence agencies are increasingly monitoring social media as some services like Twitter are widely used by terrorist organizations like the Islamic State group. A former deputy director of the NSA, John C. Inglis, told the WSJ that Twitter was engaging in double standards, by declining to offer intelligence agencies the data that is available to the private sector.

Dataminr, which mines real-time data from Twitter and other public sources into relevant information or "actionable signals" for a variety of customers including newspapers, hedge funds, investment banks, and other corporations, has been reported in the past as working with law enforcement agencies to help them monitor tweets and other data sources for potential criminal and terrorist threats.

Dataminr in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the weekend.

Twitter is quite rightly declining to serve as an extension of U.S. spy agencies, wrote Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union in a tweet.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?