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9 May, 2016 18:24

Twitter bans US intelligence access to Dataminr analytics - report

Twitter bans US intelligence access to Dataminr analytics - report

Twitter has banned the US intelligence agencies from using a service called Dataminr, which searches through real-time tweets to detect newsworthy events, including terror attacks and protests.

Dataminr reportedly said that Twitter doesn’t want the intelligence agencies to continue using the service for the fear of the “optics,” since it could be perceived as being too close to the intelligence arm of the government, according to a source cited by the The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The company told RT it had no comment on the WSJ report.

The US government has been using the Dataminr for about two years. Meanwhile, Dataminr’s contract with the US Department of Homeland Security worth $255,000 is still reportedly intact.

Twitter said in a statement that “data is largely public and the US government may review public accounts on its own, like any user could.”

According to the company’s policy, a third-party user of public tweets, such as Dataminr, cannot sell their product to the government for surveillance purposes.

Dataminr is very popular among new media and the financial industry because its software searches through millions of tweets and detects patters that would point to potentially vital events, such as attacks, protests, earthquakes, etc. To verify the information, it matches up tweets with market information and geographic data. RT is one of Dataminr’s clients.

Some of Dataminr biggest feats include spitting out an alert about the Paris terror attacks shortly after they began last November. Another significant find was reportedly telling clients about the Brussels attacks in March ten minutes before all media organizations started reporting on them.

The US intelligence community finds the tool very useful to track events in real-time and hopes that the Twitter decision will be reversed.

“If Twitter continues to sell this [data] to the private sector, but denies the government, that’s hypocritical,” John C. Inglis, a former deputy director of the National Security Agency (NSA), told the WSJ. “I think it’s a bad sign of a lack of appropriate cooperation between a private-sector organization and the government.”

READ MORE: Follow the money: Can Twitter predict the stock market?

Dataminr is the only firm authorized by Twitter to use its real-time stream of public tweets and sell the product to clients. Twitter actually has a 5 percent stake in the company.

Twitter’s move to distance itself from the US intelligence community comes amid a larger conflict that is brewing between technology companies and the US government.

In the latest row, Apple Inc. and the Justice Department went through a protracted legal battle after the FBI demanded to unlock an iPhone used by one of the killers in the San Bernardino, California attack in December. Apple refused to cooperate. The dispute ended in March when the FBI dropped the demand, having found another way to access the phone.