Twitter is taking an action against the inappropriate use of their service. The social media platform has a policy that prohibits developers from allowing any other entity, like the law enforcement agencies, to use their data for surveillance. Twitter issued a warning that they will suspend or terminate the access of those that violate their rules.
According to ZDNet, the warning comes after Twitter had cut off their service to social media surveillance platforms SnapTrends and Geofeedia. Both companies were discovered to have helped law enforcement agencies monitor and track individuals through Twitter's Public APIs and data products. Geofeedia had to cut more than 30 jobs as a result.
Twitter became concerned upon hearing that their data is being used in that manner. They cited incidents in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri where protesters and activists were profiled with the help of Twitter's public data. This issue was first raised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). What's even worse is the fact that Denver Police Department had paid $30,000 for a one-year subscription to Geofeedia, according to The Daily Dot. This is despite a prior agreement that the department will stop collecting information on protesters not suspected to crimes.
Twitter described this as "absolutely unacceptable". It was the ACLU that prompted social media platform like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to cut Geofeedia's access. In this way, Geofeedia won't be able to offer the said data to more than 500 US law enforcement agencies.
Twitter's General Manager of Data and Enterprise Solutions Chris Moody ensured that their "commitment to social justice is core" to their mission. Furthermore, their policies "in this area are long-standing". Twitter commits to adding more resources "for swiftly investigating and acting on complaints about the misuse" of information in the coming months. They will also continue to review use cases and reject requested ones where it's actually appropriate.
Twitter is a platform where people can share their contents. In fact, it has been used for the benefit of certain causes that include the flooding in Jakarta and achieving the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. Likewise, people that tweets news alerts is instrumental in helping responders react to emergencies and natural disasters. Twitter would want their Gnip enterprise data products and Twitter Public APIs to be used for these purposes.
However, it will take a lot more to prevent law enforcement agencies from using a person's data for surveillance. An individual's s security and privacy will continue to be threatened. For instance, ZDNet reports that UK has passed an expansion in the Investigatory Powers Act. Critics have described it as "the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy".