Twitter won’t let U.S. government spy on your tweets anymore

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Twitter
Twitter doesn't want to look too friendly with the government.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Twitter has blocked the U.S. government from spying on our tweets in an effort to identify potential terrorists. Intelligence agencies no longer have access to the Dataminr service, which analyzes every tweet that gets published.

The move is yet another blow to the government from a Silicon Valley giant, following Apple’s refusal to hack into an iPhone for the FBI, and Facebook’s decision to rollout end-to-end encryption for all 1 billion WhatsApp users.

Twitter doesn’t own Dataminr, but it does hold a 5 percent stake in it. It also provides the company with the unique access it needs to analyze every single tweet we post and send out alerts for breaking news, real-world events, and emerging trends.

Neither company has publicly announced the move, but it was confirmed by senior U.S. intelligence officials, The Wall Street Journal reports. It’s thought that Twitter is “worried about the “optics” of seeming too close to American intelligence services.”

Twitter told Engadget that it “never authorized Dataminr or any third party to sell data to a government or intelligence agency for surveillance purposes.” However, it is happy for that data to be sold to private companies in the media, financial industry, and more.

Dataminr boasts that it was able to provide its clients with information about the Brussels attacks back in March ten minutes before the media delivered the news. It has also provided alerts on ISIS attacks on Libya, and the political crisis in Brazil.

The Journal adds that U.S. government agencies are unhappy about the decision made by Twitter and Dataminr, and are hoping that they will reconsider the move. In recent years, social media has played an increasingly important role in detecting terrorist activity.

“The volume of the group’s activity on Twitter yields a vast amount of data that is a crucial tool for counterterrorism practitioners working to manage threats,” said Michael S. Smith II, CEO of the security consulting firm Kronos Advisory.

“Twitter’s decision could have grave consequences.”