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Twitter plans crackdown on developers & organizations exploiting data for surveillance

Over the next several months, Twitter will embark on a crackdown on developers building surveillance tools to track protesters and activists, the company said this week in announcement.

Using Twitter's public APIs and Gnip enterprise data for surveillance is already banned under official terms, and can lead to suspensions or outright termination of access to the material, the company noted. To address abuse cases, it's planning "expanded enforcement and compliance efforts," among them dedicating more resources to investigating and acting on complaints.

Twitter has often been used by dissidents, some examples being uprisings in Egypt, Iran, Tunisia, and Ukraine, as well as more persistent movements like anti-corporate protests or Black Lives Matter. As the social network has expanded though, various firms have created tools that can be used to monitor people —including trends and locations —and supply that data to law enforcement and spy agencies, chilling the ability to speak out.

In October Twitter suspended one such firm, Geofeedia, from access to its commercial data, after the American Civil Liberties Union called attention to police using the material to monitor protesters against police violence in Baltimore and Ferguson. Earlier in 2016, it tried to limit U.S. spy agencies' data access through a firm called Dataminr.

Twitter has struggled to find its footing in the past year, thanks to high-profile departures and investor concerns about its ability to grow and turn a profit. However, on Tuesday night, the company accidentally temporarily suspended the account of its own CEO, Jack Dorsey.