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Do You Trust Twitter?

Do You Trust Twitter?

Ironically, my favorite post from South By Southwest (“SXSW“) was about what did not happen at SXSW: The SXSW Keynote With Ev Williams You Had Hoped to See by Louis Gray.  Louis Gray is not alone.  Many of us want answers to the questions he asked in his post, and it looks like we will soon have some.  Twitter’s recent acquisition of Tweetie, unofficial rumors about “firehose” access, and Fred Wilsons post hint that Twitter will either answer many of  Louis Gray’s questions at Chirp, Twitter’s first official developer conference or risk the ire of Twitter users, developers and those who are shelling out a lot of cash to attend Chirp. What’s more, Twitter will lose trust.

I would like to add to Louis Gray’s list of ten questions.

It’s no secret that many early adopters are communicating outside of Twitter’s public timeline in favor of direct messages. Twitter defines direct messages as “private tweets”.   Please define, “private”, Twitter.  Private to whom?  I asked several Twitter developers the following questions:

  1. What does “private” mean specifically?
  2. Who owns the content of direct messages?
  3. Who has access to direct messages
  4. Who is storing direct messages and/or has the ability to store direct messages?
  5. Does granting third parties OAuth access effect the “privacy” of direct messages?
  6. Do the Twitter phishing attacks spread via direct messages indicate that direct messages are vulnerable or exposed in some manner ?

Few developers had clear answers and I was unable to find documentation to back up any anecdotal evidence.  I also searched online and found complaints of direct messages being posted publicly.  Twitter’s response? Blame the third-party twitter clients or your wireless carrier

Many days my direct messages (DM’s) exceed my @’s or @ replies.  Often times these direct messages are confidential, and most senders assume that Twitter will transmit their messages privately, i.e. the message is for the sender and recipient’s eyes only.

I love Twitter.  I rely on Twitter.  Twitter has literally changed my life,  but I don’t trust Twitter. Call me a skeptic, but I don’t trust that DM’s are private or secure.  Am I paranoid?  What about you?  Do you assume your DM’s are private?  If your DM’s were leaked, would you care?  Do you trust Twitter?

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Posted via email from People & Communication: Online & Offline

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  1. April 12, 2010 at 7:40 am

    “Am I paranoid?” Which kind of paranoia, the grandeur kind or the persecution kind? ;) No, you’re not…

    “What about you?” Neither am I…

    “Do you assume your DM’s are private?” Yes.

    “If your DM’s were leaked, would you care?” Of course…
    Do you trust Twitter? “Trust, but verify.” I think you raise very valid privacy and security concerns, and the essence of the problem is your question #5:

    “Does granting third parties OAuth access [affect] the “privacy” of direct messages?” I would say based on the available evidence, absolutely yes. If most if not all of the myriad phishing and spam attacks have come through third-party apps using DMs, then there’s more than a little possibility that DMs could be harvested too. Privacy has been compromised.

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