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Twitter cracks down on developers making surveillance tools

It doesn't want law enforcement having easy access to your tweets.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
November 22, 2016
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Josh Edelson via Getty Images

If it wasn't already clear that Twitter wants to keep police and spies out of your tweets, it is now. Twitter is warning developers that it won't let them use public programming kits or Gnip data for surveillance reasons, whether the clients are law enforcement or anyone else. Just because many tweets are public doesn't mean it's acceptable to harvest them, Twitter says. To that end, it's promising "expanded" efforts to crack down on developers who use the data for surveillance reasons. Get caught and you'll either have limited access or lose it entirely.

To Twitter, the reasoning is simple: the company is devoted to "social justice," and that's not possible when officials are using these public data sets to track protesters, scoop up people's names and otherwise curb freedom of expression.

The policy and resulting crackdown isn't going to stop authorities from collecting information through other means, whether it's old-fashioned searching or formal requests. However, it'll at least make the process harder. Agencies will have to really want that information to get it, and can't just gather it en masse with a simple program.

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