The FBI is using a Twitter tool called Dataminr to track criminals and terrorist groups, according to documents spotted by The Verge. In a contract document, the agency says Dataminr’s Advanced Alerting Tool allows it “to search the complete Twitter firehose, in near real-time, using customizable filters.” However, the practice seems to violate Twitter’s developer agreement, which prohibits the use of its data feed for surveillance or spying purposes.
It’s not clear if Twitter has authorized the bureau to access Dataminr, but Engadget has reached out for comment. It cut off another company, Geofeedia, for using its raw feed to track users in a similar way. However, Twitter has a closer relationship with Dataminr; it owns five percent of the firm and has given it a virtual monopoly on its data feed. As the FBI points out in a “limited source justification” document, “Dataminr is the only certified Official Twitter Data Partner with direct proprietary access to the full ‘Twitter firehose’ which allows it to provide near real-time alerts of breaking news and events.”