Twitter has reportedly barred information discovery company Dataminr from providing its services to intelligence agencies. While Twitter is remaining coy in its public response to the story, it’s thought that authorities had been using Dataminr for around two years.
Dataminr is the only outlet that is given access to a real-time feed of every tweet published via Twitter, according to a report from The Verge. It’s clear that the social media giant sees promise in Dataminr’s services, as it holds a 5 percent stake in the company.
It’s easy to see why intelligence agencies would be interested in the service being offered by Dataminr. The company claims that it delivered word of the terror attacks in Brussels that took place in March of this year some ten minutes before news reports hit, sorting through the chaff of social media posts to get to the facts.
It’s thought that Dataminr began supplying information to authorities after the company received funding from a venture capital firm called In-Q-Tel. Founded in 1999, that not-for-profit firm invests in technology companies with the primary intention of delivering cutting-edge equipment and resources to the CIA and others.
However, Twitter is now putting a stop to the links between Dataminr and the U.S. intelligence community. According to a statement released by the company, the government will have to resign itself to reviewing public accounts just as any other user would.
Reports linking Twitter to intelligence agencies are always going to prompt surveillance fears, but Twitter maintains that it has long held a policy that forbids data being sold for such purposes. Still, the company hasn’t cut ties with authorities completely; it’s thought that Dataminr still holds a $255,000 contract with the Department of Homeland Security.