Twitter Inc. blocked U.S. intelligence agencies’ access to data provided by a private company that scans Twitter feeds, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
According to the report, New York-based Dataminr Inc. provided information services that mined social-media postings to intelligence agencies for the past two years, and Twitter said it didn’t want Dataminr to continue to provide the data service to intelligence agencies, speaking with a senior U.S. official and a person familiar with the matter, who both requested anonymity.
The report raises questions about intelligence agencies’ use of user information and transparency. “Intelligence agencies around the world are very good as setting up proxy organizations that can help them gain access to the information they need,” said Cryptzone chief security officer Leo Taddeo, speaking with SCMagazine.com.
The approach is “forcing intelligence agencies to be more obscure,” Fortinet VP of network security solutions Ken McApline told SCMagazine.com. Twitter’s policy is “not conducive to a productive outcome,” McApline added.
“The best case for an intelligence agency is to get the biggest data set, the cleanest data set, and get it first,” added Taddeo, a former F.B.I. special agent in charge of the special operations/cyber division of the FBI’s New York office. “Any good intelligence agency is going to try to get their data as far upstream as possible.”
Last year, a report published by the Brookings Institution published noted the intelligence value of ISIS supporters’ social media accounts. “The ability to accurately identify tens of thousands of ISIS supporters on Twitter provides ample room for the suspension of accounts that have strong operational, recruitment, or propaganda value, with little or no functional loss of intelligence,” the report stated.
“In the data market, information is sold in so many ways,” said Taddeo. “Once it’s sold and out there, it’s out of the hands of the collecting agency.”