November 29, 2016 - By Ruchi Gupta · 0 Comments
Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) has sent out a warning to law enforcement authorities who have turned the service into a surveillance tool. The social media company said that agencies and police who would be found in violation would have their accounts suspended and their access to the public API denied. The Twitter vs US authorities’ battle has already seen action taken on two firms which had violated the terms of service. The two firms, Geofeedia and Snaptrends, were banned from the service for assisting the police in tracking individuals by use of the location-based tweets. After the Twitter ban, Geofeedia, fired over 30 members of staff.
Twitter’s response to the two firms came after some social justice organizations claimed that tweets were being used to assist police in the monitoring and surveillance of activists. According to the micro-blogging firm, they would not be party to such actions.
“And our policies in this area are long-standing. Using Twitter’s Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited,” Twitter’s Chris Moody wrote in an online post.
Amidst the furor, Twitter has clarified that its guidelines dealing with law enforcement agencies would remain unaffected. In cases where it has been subpoenaed to reveal certain information, it would cooperate fully with the law.
In its transparency reports, Twitter has acknowledged that the judicial system regularly asks for user data from the social media firm. The problem now is that law enforcement agencies have been employing scanning tools available for social media in reading, collecting and profiling users data for monitoring and surveillance purposes. This generally doesn’t require a court order.
The Twitter vs US authorities’ rift is likely to expand further with the recent election of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections. From the campaign trail, Trump promised to rely heavily on surveillance in order to ensure the security and safety of the American people. And in the United Kingdom recently, a law which promises to greatly expand the surveillance programs, the Investigatory Powers Act, was passed.
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By Ruchi Gupta