Twitter Privacy Fixed, Area Man Still Angry

by danhon

So Bobbie’s reporting that the hole in Twitter has been fixed, but there’s one particular quote in the piece attributed to Dave Troy, the developer of Twittervision:

“For what it is worth, the number of people who participate in something like Twitter who also opt to keep updates private is a pretty small percentage, and you are the first person to bring this up to me,” he said. “If this were a widespread concern I would have heard about it from others by now.”

which seems rather specious to me. Leaving aside the fact that Dave thinks that the privacy breach isn’t the major issue is the observation that just because a small number of peoples’ privacy has been breached it isn’t a big deal. Well, it wouldn’t be: unless you were one of those people.

Now, far be it for me to stoop to the level of, say, invoking Godwin’s law here, but I’m sure that the number of people suffering some other harm as a percentage of a larger population pool (say, murder victims out of the pool of everyone alive) would have quite a lot to say about the issue.

I’m not going to do something as silly as equate a privacy breach on Twitter or Twittervision to something as serious as that above, but it does strike me as rather blase to treat a privacy breach – any privacy breach – as not a major issue just because a small number of people have experienced it. Not that anyone should really be posting extremely sensitive data (e.g. full debit/credit card information), but there’s a reason why people opt-in to privacy on Twitter. It’s to keep their updates private. Again: to say that just because only a small number of people (and again, I’m assuming that the small percentage is anecdotal evidence anyway) have had their privacy breached after explicitly setting privacy settings means that I’m really unable to take someone like Troy seriously with any of my personal data.

So yes – a minor issue in that for me, I would’ve been a fool to post sensitive data to Twitter – even with the expectation of privacy, but a major issue for Troy in that he seems to think it’s okay to run roughshod over the expectations (and needs) of people who aren’t even using his service.

I recognise here, of course, that an API failure on Twitter’s part means that Troy could have done nothing at all about this, but I’d suggest that it’s not necessarily whether he could have done anything about it all that matters: it’s his attitude.