After ACLU investigation, Twitter blocks US surveillance "fusion centers" from monitoring tool

The ACLU of Northern California recently published a leaked email showing that Dataminr -- a Twitter-monitoring company partially owned by Twitter itself -- was selling access to US domestic surveillance "fusion centers" where local, state and federal agencies pool resources to spy on their targets.

After the revelation, Twitter announced that Dataminr would no longer supply fusion centers.

Twitter has a policy against using Twitter data for state surveillance, but this has proved hard to enforce, as some of Twitter's bulk-data customers have gone on to sell to domestic surveillance agencies.

The announcement on Thursday applies to all 77 fusion centers in the US. Ozer said she hoped other companies would follow suit, noting that Dataminr’s technology “is probably not the only type of tool that fusion centers may have access to. It’s really important for other companies to be taking action to protect their users.”

Spokespeople for Twitter and Dataminr pointed to their letter to the ACLU this week, which noted that Dataminr only received public Twitter data. The letter also said Dataminr had “refined” its product for public sectors, focusing on a “breaking news alert” that helps first responders learn about events as quickly as possible.

“Dataminr is committed to privacy and civil liberties protections,” the company said in a statement. “We have worked closely with Twitter to modify our product and incorporate feedback that ensures the strongest safeguards are in place for people who use Twitter.”

Twitter blocks government 'spy centers' from accessing user data
[Sam Levin/The Guardian]

Letter to ACLU [Twitter]

Developer Policies to Protect People’s Voices on Twitter
[Chris Moody/Twitter]