Twitter to crack down on spies wielding its APIs

Using location tracking to track protestors is possible, but now verboten under policy change


Twitter will begin clamping down on unauthorised police surveillance of its users.

Data and enterprise executive Chris Moody (@chrismoodycom) did not specify the action Twitter would take against developers who use its APIs for commercial spying services, other than saying it would crack down "soon".

Moody's warning comes in response to the suspension of Chicago-based location-tracking company Geofeedia which had its access to Twitter's API revoked after the American Civil Liberties Union reported it was selling services to police.

Law enforcement were using the data to monitor protests and other gatherings.

The tracking company was also locating users using Facebook and Instagram, until access to those services was also cut.

Twitter's Moody says using its APIs and Gnip data products for surveillance of protests is "absolutely unacceptable".

"Recent reports about Twitter data being used for surveillance, however, have caused us great concern," Moody says

"Using Twitter’s Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited."

Any developer who infringes on its "well established" commitment to social justice face having their accounts and access terminated.

"The fact that our public APIs and Gnip data products provide information that people choose to share publicly does not change our policies in this area."

Moody says in "coming months" Twitter will "take on expanded enforcement and compliance efforts" including throwing more resources to investigating and responding to complaints of APIs and Gnip abuse.

Geofeedia has since laid off half its staff as the company moves into other areas of data analytics.

The company says in a statement it has policies prohibiting use of its technology to impinge on free speech and will work with the Civil Liberties Union to prevent future abuse. ®

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