Twitter Has Cut Off Real-Time Alerts to U.S. Spy Agencies
Silicon Valley and U.S. intelligence agencies haven’t been getting along for a while, and a new move by Twitter underscores their tense relationship.
In an atmosphere fraught with conflicting worries about privacy and terrorism, Twitter (TWTR) has barred American intelligence agencies from a service that sifts through all the postings on its feed, the Wall Street Journal reports. The service, which is provided by a company called Dataminr, provides real time alerts about terrorist attacks and other hot button issues. Twitter’s move was confirmed by a senior U.S. intelligence official, according to the Journal.
Dataminr execs told U.S. intelligence agencies that Twitter didn’t want to continue providing the service because it was worried about appearing too close to spy agencies, the Journal said. Twitter owns about 5% of Dataminr, which has some 150 employees and is headquartered in New York. It is the only company that is allowed to sift through all the postings on Twitter and sell the results.
In a prepared statement, a Twitter representative told Fortune, “We have never authorized Dataminr or any third party to sell data to a government or intelligence agency for surveillance purposes.”
In the past, Dataminr has given U.S. intelligence services warnings of terrorist attacks before the news was widely known. Last November, it offered news of the Paris attacks as they happened, and in March it provided news of the Brussels attacks 10 minutes before they hit the news media. The senior U.S. intelligence official told the Journal that such alerts were “an extremely valuable tool.”
Twitter’s move brought unhappy responses from intelligence officials. John Inglis, a former deputy director of the NSA, told the Journal that it was “hypocritical” of Twitter (TWTR) to deny intelligence agencies data while continuing to sell it to private firms.
The new skirmish between the government and Silicon Valley comes on the heels of Apple’s recent fight over providing access to an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooters, a standoff that only ended when the FBI found a way to hack the phone without Apple’s (AAPL) help.
Fortune has contacted Dataminr and will update this story with any response.
This story has been updated to reflect comment from Twitter.