The war over app data: Twitter vs US law enforcement

Published Updated

Twitter acted in early May to restrict access by US law enforcement and security services to access its firehose of user app data. Twitter doesn’t provide this service directly, but rather through a private firm, Dataminr, in which it holds a 5% stake. The company states it has a pre-existing policy of not supplying data to governmental agencies for the purposes of spying, although it appears Dataminr have been providing information to US intelligence for some time.

A number of senior US officials told the Wall Street Journal of Twitter's move, emphasising the growing interest and tensions around use of and access to app data, especially in government circles. Twitter -- amongst other apps -- is used by terror groups such as ISIL for communications, and is thus of particular interest to intelligence services.

App data access capabilities provide extremely valuable intelligence for agencies. Data from Twitter alerted the US to the Paris terror attacks as they unfolded, and to the terror attacks in Brussels roughly 10 minutes before mainstream media began reporting.

Other US tech firms have recently pushed back against US federal groups. Apple took on the FBI over access to app data on the San Bernadino iPhone and Microsoft is fighting a Department of Justice warrant for email app data from Ireland. Google and Facebook (via WhatsApp) backed Apple against mobile backdoor installation for remote app data gathering purposes.

The FBI, the Department of Justice, Apple, Google and Microsoft are all licensors of Reincubate’s technology. Reincubate’s app data APIs provides functionality to access and interpret app data across a number of platforms. For more information, read about the iCloud API.

About the author

Aidan Fitzpatrick founded Reincubate in 2008 after building the world's first iPhone data recovery tool, iPhone Backup Extractor. He's spoken at Google on entrepreneurship, and is a graduate of the Entrepreneurs' Organisation's Leadership Academy.

Reincubate's CEO at Buckingham Palace

Pictured above are members of Reincubate’s team meeting HM Queen Elizabeth Ⅱ at Buckingham Palace, after being awarded the UK’s highest business award for our work with Apple technology. Read our position on privacy, safety and security.

Can we improve this article?

We love hearing from users: why not drop us an email, leave a comment, or tweet @reincubate?

© 2008 - 2019 Reincubate Ltd. All rights reserved. Registered in England and Wales #5189175, VAT GB151788978. Reincubate® is a registered trademark. Privacy & terms. We recommend 2FA. Built with in London.