Twitter has barred U.S. intelligence agencies from accessing Datamnir, according to The Wall Street Journal. Datamnir is a social media tool that sends out real-time alerts based on an algorithm which includes geotags and keywords. The micro-blogging site has a 5% stake in Datamnir.
Why did Twitter block intelligence agencies?
According to the media outlet, the micro-blogging site blocked intelligence agencies’ access from the tool now because “Dataminr executives recently told intelligence agencies that Twitter didn’t want the company to continue providing the service to them, according to a person familiar with the matter. The senior intelligence official said Twitter appeared to be worried about the “optics” of seeming too close to American intelligence services.”
The intelligence community’s obsession with monitoring social media is not new. Recently In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, invested in dozens of technology companies that create tools for investigating social media data. Datamnir is believed to be one of the recipients of funds, considering the fact that the agency had access to the tool.
In comparison to the final six months of 2014, the number of data requests from the U.S. government increased 65% in the same period in 2015, Twitter said in its transparency report.
Another fight between a tech company and the federal government?
Datamnir is used to track breaking news around the world by many media organizations, but in 2013, it was used to track potential threats to the second-term inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama.
Twitter told The WSJ, “Data is largely public and the U.S. government may review public accounts on its own, like any user could.”
After the trial program via In-Q-Tel ended, the micro-blogging giant told Datamnir to cut intelligence agency access, the report said, citing a source. But there is still one agency that has access to the tool, which is the Department of Homeland Security.
This is the latest stand-off among the many battles between the federal government and tech companies. The FBI and Apple have been in an encryption fight recently as well, in which the FBI demanded access to the iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters, but Apple refused. Eventually the FBI used a third party to access the phone but did not share the method of access with the iPhone maker.
On Friday, Twitter shares closed up 1.91% at $14.39. Year to date, the stock is down by over 35%, while in the last year, it is down almost 62%.