Report: Twitter blocks feds from data mining service – USA TODAY

6 months ago Comments Off on Report: Twitter blocks feds from data mining service – USA TODAY

Online social networking company Twitter (TWTR) has reportedly blocked U.S. intelligence agencies from access to a widely used data mining service it partly owns.

Twitter told Dataminr, the business partner that sifts through and provides access to the full output of the San Francisco-based firm’s social media postings known as tweets, that it didn’t want the service provided to government investigators, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Twitter made the decision because the company did not like the “optics” of appearing too close to U.S. spy agencies, the Journal reported, citing an unidentified intelligence official.

The issue could further escalate the public privacy vs. government security tensions between high tech firms and the federal government as investigators seek access to social media data in an effort to detect and avert suspected terrorist plots.

New York-based Dataminr did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Twitter said Dataminr uses public tweets to sell breaking news alerts to media organizations and government agencies such as the World Health Organization “for non-surveillance purposes.”

“We have never authorized Dataminr or any third party to sell data to a government or intelligence agency for surveillance purposes. This is a longstanding Twitter policy, not a new development,” the company said.

Separately, Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, tweeted: “Twitter quite rightly declining to serve as extension of US spy agencies.”

Twitter holds an estimated 5% stake in Dataminr, and has given the partner access to the complete firehose torrent of data generated by Twitter’s hundreds of millions of tweeters. Dataminr sifts through the tweets, uses algorithms that identify the postings that flag new or unusual events, and then routes those tweets to subscribers.

Media organizations, including USA TODAY, use Dataminr as a news-gathering tool that provides alerts to breaking news — ranging from suspected terrorist incidents to financial market moves and the latest developments in the arts and social media worlds — even as they first surface.

Dataminr’s relationships with media companies, the financial industry and other clients has not been changed.

Near instantaneous access to breaking news of terrorism such as the recent attacks in Paris  and San Bernardino has drawn interest from federal investigators who seek clues to the suspects behind the incidents.

Twitter told the Journal that its data “is largely public and the U.S. government may review public accounts on its own, like any user could.”

The episode comes in the wake of two highly-publicized cases in which the FBI sought the help of tech giant Apple (AAPL) in gaining access to data in two of the tech giant’s iPhones. One of the smart phones was used by the shooter in the San Bernardino terror attack. The other was used by a confessed drug conspiracy defendant in Queens, N.Y.

In federal court standoffs, Apple argued that current federal law doesn’t authorize government investigators to compel the company’s assistance in such cases. The FBI ultimately gained access to data in the two phones without Apple’s help.

Report: Twitter blocks feds from data mining service – USA TODAY

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