Twitter claims monitoring service not for 'surveillance purposes'; no personal data collected

WION Web Team Washington, United States Sep 30, 2020, 10.32 AM(IST)

Representative image Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Twitter has also clarified that the data being observed is strictly limited to tweets, and no personal information is extracted in any case

Twitter has reacted to the recent media reports and cleared the air regarding the service that monitors tweets for police.

The service in question is Dataminr, which is a customer of Twitter's API that taps into the public tweets to alert the police about any possible danger to the lives of people.

Many accused Dataminr of defying the rules of the surveillance ban. However, Twitter has slammed back and rubbished all these accusations claiming the service is not used for surveillance.

"Twitter prohibits the use of our developer services for surveillance purposes. Period," Twitter's spokesperson said.

Also read: TikTok launches guide on fighting misinformation during US elections

"We are committed to protecting the people who use Twitter from abuse, both on our service and through our APIs. We see a societal benefit in public Twitter data being used for news alerting, first responder support, and disaster relief," company added.

Twitter claimed that the monitoring service is used to observe the flow of the public tweets related to any threat being posed to civilians and civil movements. This is done through the use of artificial intelligence that looks out for specific assigned keywords.

Also read: Twitter erupts over a questionable 'Chai Latte' recipe. Take a look at these hilarious takes!

As per the company, the service "notifies first responders about critical events as they're happening, minimizing response time and enabling them to act quickly and confidently."

The First Alert is based purely on the tweets collected from the public domain and has been coded to strictly follow the Twitter policy against surveillance.

This, as per the company, helps in curbing attacks near sensitive areas such as schools — which have often been a target of shooting.

The issue was raised by the American daily newspaper Wall Street Journal that issued a report citing an email in which Dataminr had supplied information related to upcoming protests, related to Black Lives Matter, from various Twitter handles of general public. The claim has not been proved.

Twitter, however, has claimed that they conduct regular audits related to the safety issue and "proactively enforce our policies to ensure customers are in compliance and will continue to do so," the Twitter spokesman said.

"We consistently hold ourselves accountable to rigorous standards, including third-party audits of key products and services like Dataminr."

Twitter has also clarified that the data being observed is strictly limited to tweets, and no personal information is extracted in any case. For the locked accounts, "nothing is viewable".

The spokesperson has also clarified that an extensive audit was conducted through independent auditors and no evidence that corroborates the claim made in the WSJ’s article were found.