In-Q-Tel, a venture-capital investor in high-tech companies with an annual contract with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), until recently invested in Dataminr to sift through millions of Twitter messages for information on unfolding terrorist attacks and other activities, The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday.
Twitter told the company "it didn’t want to continue the relationship with intelligence agencies" when In-Q-Tel’s pilot program with Dataminr ended recently, the newspaper cited a person familiar with the matter as saying. The San Francisco-based social media giant owns 5 percent of Dataminr’s stock.
The US intelligence community is reportedly "unhappy about the decision and [is] hoping the companies will reconsider."
An intelligence official described the tool as "extremely valuable," providing examples of Dataminr alerting US intelligence of the November 2015 Paris attacks and notifying clients of the March 2016 Brussels attacks 10 minutes ahead of news outlets.
The $180-million New York City-based private firm was founded in 2009, it employs over 150 staff and has offices in Washington, DC, London and the Midwest state of Montana, according to its website.
Dataminr’s separate $255,000 contract with the US Department of Homeland Security reportedly remains in force.
Twitter's decision to end Dataminr's relationship with US intelligence comes at a heated time between the US government that seeks to expand powers on national security grounds, and tech companies that want to protect users' privacy.