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Twitter distances itself from US intelligence agencies

In an attempt to limit how its data is used, Twitter has prevented Dataminr from using real-time tweets to provide US intelligence agencies with analytics.

The company has likely shifted its stance in regard to how Dataminr handles its data so that it does not appear that it is aiding governments in conducting surveillance on their citizens. Dataminr executives recently informed US intelligence agencies of Twitter's decision to no longer allow the startup, which Twitter owns a 5 per cent stake in, to offer analytics that could be used to spy on citizens.

Twitter released a statement on Sunday that provided further details in regard to its relationship with Dataminr: “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.”

What allowed US intelligence agencies access to Dataminr's services was an investment made by the non-profit venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. The firm invested in the company and then gained access to its services which it used to set up a pilot program that utilised the company's analytics.

Twitter then reportedly expressed to Dataminr that it did not want to continue having a relationship with intelligence agencies. The company elaborated on Dataminr's actions in its statement: “We have never authorised Dataminr or any third party to sell data to a government or intelligence agency for surveillance purposes.”

Dataminr has a history of working alongside law enforcement agencies to discover both criminal and terroristic threats. By distancing itself from the company and US intelligence agencies, Twitter has taken a stand similar to Apple's over the San Bernardino iPhone case.

Image Credit: Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.