Twitter has problems with U.S. Intelligence interfering with users’ privacy, but selling data to Russia is apparently fine. Last week, the micro-blogging site rejected the Central Intelligence Agency as a customer for data based on its tweets, but it is still serving an entity controlled by Vladimir Putin, says The Wall Street Journal.
Twitter alerts very important for security agencies
Twitter recently decided that U.S. intelligence services could no longer buy services from Dataminr. Dataminr has a unique relationship with the micro-blogging site and is the only company allowed to have access to the full stream of hundreds of millions of daily tweets posted on the social network. Also Dataminr is allowed to sell the resulting intelligence to customers.
To identify unusual developments in real-time, the software company applies “big data” algorithms. A hefty price is paid for the alerts by customers who can profit from knowing about events instantly, such as news publishers and hedge funds.
The importance of the alerts Twitter has withdrawn is explained by a former top U.S. counterterrorism official. He told The WSJ that U.S. counterterrorism officials were informed through Dataminr about the attacks in San Bernardino, Paris and Brussels even before the news broke out.
Tweets and other social media messages from the Islamic State that publicize their activities frequently produce information that provides real intelligence value, said David Cohen, the CIA’s Number 2, in a speech at Cornell in September.
Russia getting full access to the alerts
Under a pilot program, Datamnir provided its services to the CIA for the past two years. A contract was then negotiated by the software company and the CIA to continue the service. But at the last minute, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey reportedly vetoed the contract, objecting to the “optics” of continuing to assist intelligence agencies, says The WSJ.
Nothing is yet clear as to what happens to the small agreement that the software company made with the Department of Homeland Security previously. The customers who are still getting Dataminr services include RT, the broadcaster funded and created by the Russian government.
The government runs RT to “try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin. RT disclosed in its new Twitter account that it is a Dataminr customer. Even the agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service, also known as the KGB, have complete access via RT to the alerts which are now being denied to the CIA, the report says.