Opinion: Twitter's privacy blunder

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
August 13, 2015

By , Columnist and , Contributor

If you want marketers to listen even more intently to what you’re saying online, you’ll be happy to know that Twitter announced that it's giving companies a way to instantly access ever public tweet in the history of the site. According to Wired, that's more than 500 billion tweets.

If you care about privacy, you’ll be troubled by the deepening commodification of our online conversations.

Twitter might be surprised to learn that anyone’s unhappy with its initiative. After all, it's giving brands access to only public tweets, and we’ve been lulled into thinking that we check our privacy interests at the door the moment we disclose anything in public. But as the much-repeated saying goes, the “Internet never forgets,” and this means what’s said today easily can be data mined tomorrow.

Thankfully, Twitter offers meaningful privacy safeguards. It allows users toprotect accounts so that anyone who wants access to a profile must be manually approved. So, tweets from protected accounts do not show up in public timelines. If you don’t take this option and instead choose an account that will display your tweets to anyone, Twitter can wash its hands of further responsibility. The common narrative is that publicity seekers only have themselves to blame if uninvited guests, including corporations, listen in on their conversations. 

At the same time, Twitter’s decision profoundly impacts obscurity: It’s now much easier for corporations to access and analyze personal information we didn’t intend for them to have. Ongoing concern exists about how journalists incorporate tweets into their stories, and now tweets are going to start showing up in Google searches. With its decision in 2010 to let the Library of Congress archive public tweets, Twitter is on a troubling course. 

Read the full piece at The Christian Science Monitor