Twitter’s decision to block the British police and intelligence agencies from accessing data to identify terrorist plots has evoked criticism from the government. To ensure that its data is not used for surveillance, the micro-blogging site blocked the access to key streams of information on April 25 that is used by police and M15 to identify potential threats. “We are protesting this decision. We are in talks with Twitter on getting access to this data,” The Telegraph quoted a spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, as saying. The spokesman also called for other social media companies to be a part of government’s fight against terrorism.
According to reports, government had paid a third-party company for a service that tracked terms related to potential terror attacks — before this was blocked by Twitter cutting off access to its API. This is not, however, for the first time that Twitter has taken a tough stance against a government’s surveillance plan using social media data.
In December 2016, the social media site blocked US law enforcement agencies from accessing real-time data through a deal with Dataminr. This decision by Twitter has come after a tremendous pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “We prohibit developers using the Public APIs and Gnip data products from allowing law enforcement – or any other entity – to use Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period,” Twitter had said in a blog post then.
Discussions are currently ongoing between the British government and Twitter to resolve the issue. It is believed that the data being requested would be anonymised.