Just because your tweets are public, doesn’t mean that law enforcement can use them to track your activity, Twitter clarified in a blog post on Tuesday. The post came after the company received reports of the service being used for surveillance on its users, the post said.

“As a company, our commitment to social justice is core to our mission and well established,” the post said. “And our policies in this area are long-standing. Using Twitter’s Public APIs or data products to track or profile protesters and activists is absolutely unacceptable and prohibited.”

Twitter’s public API makes tweets and some of their data available to developers worldwide, to be used in a variety of applications. In the post, the company said that the APIs were built using “content that people choose to share publicly,” and noted how that can be leveraged to help respond to natural disasters.

SEE: Encryption Policy Template (Tech Pro Research)

However, the post said, the fact that the data is shared publicly doesn’t change the fact that it is not allowed to be used for any surveillance efforts from law enforcement. If certain developers violate these policies, the post said, their access to the APIs could be suspended or terminated.

“Over the coming months, you’ll see us take on expanded enforcement and compliance efforts, including adding more resources for swiftly investigating and acting on complaints about the misuse of Twitter’s Public APIs and Gnip data products,” the post said.

As reported by ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker, some of the first casualties of this renewed focus on privacy could have come in the form of companies like SnapTrends and Geofeedia losing access to the service. According to The Daily Dot, these companies were reportedly using Twitter and other social media platforms to help hundreds of law enforcement agencies perform surveillance on users.

Twitter is one of many companies that have been a part of the tense conversations happening about the role of tech companies in protecting user privacy. Apple’s battle with the FBI over unlocking an iPhone for use in a criminal investigation was one of the most seminal moments in the ongoing controversy. Now, Apple’s encryption war is continuing with the New York District Attorney.

Building on the excitement created by Apple’s refusal to unlock the iPhone, Twitter’s push back against law enforcement further highlights the fine line between security and privacy that modern social media and smartphone users are having to walk.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Twitter formally pushed back against the use of its public APIs in surveillance tools built for law enforcement with a blog plog clarifying its policies.
  2. Twitter said that it will suspend or ban developers from access to its APIs if they fail to comply with the company’s policies.
  3. Twitter joins Apple and other tech companies in addressing potential privacy concerns for social media and smartphone users.