Twitter vows swift action against devs caught using surveillance tools

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Twitter has issued a statement claiming it is expanding its enforcement of its policies violating developers from using its data to spy on its users, and from providing user information to law enforcement agencies.

The company currently allows developers worldwide to access both its Gnip enterprise data products and its Twitter Public application programming interface (API). The tools allow devs to view public tweets shared by the site’s 317 million users in real-time. Twitter’s data is used to create everything from news alerts to helpful mapping features for nonprofits and emergency services.

However, there is an insidious side to the tools being built using the platform’s public tweets, specifically the way the info is used to spy on users by surveillance companies. Just last month, it was revealed that a social media mapping tool dubbed Geofeedia was touting the “special access” it had to social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Despite Twitter’s existing policies prohibiting surveillance, the ACLU had uncovered a number of emails sent by Geofeedia that alleged it had supplied its tracking data to local law enforcement in Oakland and Baltimore. Twitter responded to the findings by shutting down the company’s access to its data.

In its new statement, the company claims it has not forgotten its commitment to “social justice.” It adds: “Using Twitter’s Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited.”

Twitter says that devs caught violating its policies could be suspended or have their access to its API and data products terminated. It will also examine requests to use its tools on a case-by-case basis, and withhold the right to reject all or part of a request.

The company concluded by stating the vast majority of developers respect its users, and that it appreciates the creative and innovative work they do.

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