zahid lilani

Twitter Stepping in to Privacy Waters

If you gave a valid email then you probably received one of the few million emails sent by the Twitter team announcing two new changes. One deals with OAuth which is too geeky for my taste and you don’t really care about it anyways. The second one is interesting because it deals with privacy (they both do but this one is what will affect you more).

I think I have your attention now.

Twitter is going to roll out “t.co” URL shortener which will help you shorten the long URLs that you are currently used to shortening using Bit.ly etc. The purpose of this new feature is to serve as a benefit to the end user (you) and help Twitter’s bottom line. So far so good…

Clicks will be logged by Twitter if you use “t.co” URL shortener. Data will be used to figure out what works and what doesn’t in terms of popularity and then algorithms will be implemented to help advertisers maximize ROI.

It’s capitalism dude, businesses have the right to make money.

True, I am all for Twitter being successful and making money but I don’t think Twitter can safeguard my privacy.

[ad#left] Fail whale, anyone? How reliable are Twitter data centers? How secure are its servers?

It will take one hacker with a simple yet devastating exploit to access the logs and then make it available to the world. Twitter click data can be a goldmine for advertisers. They will pay for access to YOUR clicking habits and interests.

In a perfect world I would say that even that is harmless.

The real problem is when the click data is used to prosecute you on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Government, Lawyers etc requesting Twitter to turn over data that can then be used against you in court of law. That’s frightening!

Here are few suggestions for Twitter team:

– Let user opt out of click tracking.
– Anonymize the data after 72 hours
– Hire a decent privacy lawyer wiling to fight the government from accessing private data derived from clicks.

That said, I simply love Twitter. Why?

Twitter sent me an email announcing it’s new features. When was the last time Facebook sent an email saying they are going to introduce new features? They don’t even do it when they make private data available to the advertisers and the world.

I know it is ironic, on one hand they care about users and on the other they are implementing features that track user habits. Why not just charge people with over 5000 followers a low monthly fee? That would solve quite a few problems, #1 being spam.