FBI hires Dataminr to Surveil Twitter

by | Nov 15, 2016

FBI hires Dataminr to Surveil Twitter

by | Nov 15, 2016

The FBI has a new view into what’s happening on Twitter. Last week, the bureau hired Dataminr, a Twitter-linked analytics firm, to provide an “advanced alerting tool” to over 200 users. Twitter owns a 5 percent stake in Dataminr and provides it with exclusive access to the full “firehose” of live tweets, making it a valuable resource for anyone looking for illegal activity on the service.

“Twitter is used extensively by terrorist organizations and other criminals to communicate, recruit, and raise funds for illegal activity,” the FBI wrote in a contracting document. “With increased use of Twitter by subjects of FBI investigations, it is critical to obtain a service which will allow the FBI to identify relevant information from Twitter in a timely fashion.”

In order to identify that information, Dataminr agreed to provide its tool “to search the complete Twitter firehose, in near-real time, with customizable filters.”


However, the FBI contract seems to violate a key clause in Twitter’s Developer Agreement, which specifically forbids using the provided data to “investigate, track or surveil Twitter’s users.” In practice, that has often meant banning third-party companies found to be reselling data.

Read Russell Brandom’s full article at The Verge.

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