Twitter Cracks Down on Data Use for Surveillance

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Twitter reiterated its policy that restricts third-parties from employing public data or data products for surveillance.

The practice, recently used by police to profile protesters and activists, is "absolutely unacceptable," the microblogging site said.

Last month, law enforcement officials in Baltimore and Oakland, Calif., used analytics software from Geofeedia to monitor demonstrators via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Following a report by the ACLU, the social media firm promptly curtailed Geofeedia's access.

"We prohibit developers using the Public APIs and Gnip data products from allowing law enforcement—or any other entity—to use Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period," Chris Moody, general manager of data and enterprise solutions, wrote in a blog entry.

Moving forward, the company intends to expand its efforts, with plans to add more resources for pursuing complaints about misuse of information. Twitter will also continue running its internal review process, rejecting requested use cases "where appropriate."

Anyone who violates these rules may face suspension and termination of access to Twitter data.

"As a company, our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established," Moody said. "And our policies in this area are long-standing."

Twitter is built on content that people choose to share publicly, and has benefited from innovation and creation. News alerts based on tweets, for instance, help first responders react to emergencies and natural disasters.

"We believe this is an important service and support developers doing this important work." Moody added.

And while the crackdown won't stop law enforcement officials from making formal requests or conducting its own searches, it will make the process more difficult.

"The vast majority of developers respect the voices of people using Twitter, and we appreciate and support the creative and innovative work being done by these developers every day," the company said.

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