Twitter has blocked federally funded "domestic spy centers" from using a powerful social media monitoring tool after public records revealed that the government had special access to users' information for controversial surveillance efforts. The American Civil Liberties Union of California discovered that so-called fusion centers, which collect intelligence, had access to monitoring technology from Dataminr, an analytics company partially owned by Twitter. Records that the ACLU obtained uncovered that a fusion center in southern California had access to Dataminr's "geospatial analysis application", which allowed the government to do location-based tracking as well as searches tied to keywords. In October, the ACLU obtained government records revealing that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram had provided users' data to Geofeedia, a software company that aids police surveillance programs and has targeted protesters of color.
SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. police departments used location data and other user information from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to track protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday. Facebook, which also owns Instagram, and Twitter shut off the data access of Geofeedia, the Chicago-based data vendor that provided data to police, in response to the ACLU findings. "These special data deals were allowing the police to sneak in through a side door and use these powerful platforms to track protesters," said Nicole Ozer, the ACLU's technology and civil liberties policy director. In a tweet, Twitter said that it was "immediately suspending Geofeedia's commercial access to Twitter data," following the ACLU report.