Twitter’s earnings for the first quarter were leaked an hour before their scheduled official release by financial service provider Selerity. This attempt by the Manhattan-based company suggests its effort to draw the public’s attention to its data mining skills.

Twitter DM

Twitter blames NASDAQ for the leak

As a consequence of the leak, Twitter’s stock came down sharply, and the micro-blogging company made public its financial results earlier than expected. In regard to the leak, Selerity rejected allegations proposing that it hacked into Twitter’s website and stated that the data was directly retrieved from the company’s investor relations site.

Brendan Gilmartin, an executive with Selerity, suggested that the company’s software noticed changes in the URL, and some new links appeared on the investor relations page as they were browsing through it. Among the links, there was one that led to a PDF document containing Twitter’s earnings data, which was then broken down and extracted by Selerity’s computers. After the mining, the earnings results were mailed to Selerity’s clients and posted on Twitter.

However, Twitter blamed NASDAQ OMX, which maintains the company’s investor relations website. NASDAQ agreed that the data was accidentally released before schedule, but, according to NASDAQ’s spokesperson Joe Christinat, the information was published in a format that could be only deciphered by a computer. Further, Christinat indicated that the company is probing into the “root cause of the leak.”

Growing influence of data scraping

The recent expose by Selerity exemplifies the growing influence of data scraping activities around the world. Moreover, it also points at the susceptibility of companies towards attempts aimed at leaking their sensitive information, including financial data. Data scraping methods have become increasingly popular among investors, for instance, hedge fund houses seeking to exploit data for their trading purposes before it is out in the public domain, says a report from USA TODAY.

However, in this case, Selerity just wanted to gain public attention by exposing Twitter’s first quarter results. This seems to be true considering the popularity of Twitter and the extensive interest of the public in its earnings.

“Obviously, a lot of people have an interest in Twitter’s earnings,” Gilmartin said. “This is an event that we felt strongly in raising brand awareness.”