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Beware: The FBI Can See Your Tweets

Sunday Feb 21st, on Criminal Investigations |

Each day, more than 500 million tweets are sent by Twitter users and shared publicly around the world. Twitter has privacy policies in place that limit what can be done with data on Twitter users and on tweets being sent out. However, Twitter also has relationships with certain companies that have access to a so-called data firehose.

Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has signed a deal with one of those companies that will make much more Twitter data accessible to the bureau. According to the Boston Globe, this is causing concerns about surveillance and privacy.

The FBI's move to gain access to the Twitter data firehose is yet another move forward in law enforcement efforts to access and monitor vast amounts of digital data produced by private individuals and companies.

Those who are accused of wrongdoing should be aware of the unprecedented access to information that law enforcement may now have in the digital age. It is essential for anyone accused of a crime to speak with a New York federal criminal defense attorney who can make sure their constitutional rights are protected in an era where privacy issues routinely arise with digital data.

FBI Gains Access to Twitter Data

When Twitter users publicly post a tweet, that tweet has always been available for everyone to see -- including the FBI. However, the public interface on Twitter offers users access to just a “small slice” of tweets at one time, while millions of tweets go back and forth in secret under the surface.  These millions of tweets are part of the firehose data stream, which Twitter restricts access to. The FBI's new deal will give it access to the firehose of data for the first time.

Not only will the FBI have access, but the deal is also going to give the agency the ability to “directly access the full firehouse” and the ability to “search the complete Twitter firehose, in near real-time, using customizable filters.”

Obviously, this means way more accessibility, as well as the ability to sort through and use Twitter data in a more effective way. The FBI can update its filters when it has new investigative priorities and it can obtain information in real time which makes that information more valuable.

Many are voicing concern that this violates Twitter's privacy policies on surveillance, which state that Twitter prohibits developers from permitting law enforcement or other entities to use Twitter data for surveillance purposes.

However, the company which made the deal with the FBI, Dataminr, says they do not enable surveillance but instead offer a breaking news alert product to help news organizations (and now the FBI) learn about important news events before the mainstream media can begin covering them.  Of course, it is difficult to determine exactly how the FBI will use its data access, especially as it can create its own customizable filters.

If you are concerned that your privacy rights are being violated when you are under investigation by the FBI or any law enforcement agency, you need to take action. Contact The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC to get a knowledgeable legal advocate on your side.

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