It is time to ask Twitter the same privacy questions

Updated: Media rightfully has been focused on Facebook and its outsized role in what are calling the surveillance economy. But focusing just on Facebook is a mistake, for data accumulation and its subsequent abuse can happen anywhere, anytime. Various data streams are being reassembled for hyper-targeting. And one of these could be Twitter, which sells its data to others.

This is a growing part of its business. During the first three months of 2018, it brought in $90 million (versus $74 million during first three months of 2017) from the sales of data, that, at the very least can echo our location, place of residence and our likes and preferences to third parties. It is valuable information, for someone who wants to harvest it. Just like Cambridge Analytica, did when it used the Facebook information acquired through a “third party” for building its targeting apparatus.

Why should we treat Google — one of a Twitter’s data firehose customers — any differently? Twitter, should disclose what information goes out as part of its firehose, to whom and what they do with it. If they do that, it will be setting an example of good data hygiene. I know that Google can scrape all this data from the web, and do an end-run around Twitter. It also gets data from YouTube, Chrome and a hundred other ways.

But it is not about Google, but about Twitter! I also know that there is no end to this surveillance economy and we are going to go from targeted text ads to visual come-ons! Sad as it might be, we need to be asking the questions, pushing these companies. So Twitter, what do you have to say?

Updated April 29, 2018: Bloomberg reports

Aleksandr Kogan, who created a personality quiz on Facebook to harvest information later used by Cambridge Analytica, established his own commercial enterprise, Global Science Research (GSR). That firm was granted access to large-scale public Twitter data, covering months of posts, for one day in 2015, according to Twitter. The company has removed Cambridge Analytica and affiliated entities as advertisers. Twitter said GSR paid for the access; it provided no further details.

Updated: April 30, 2018:  “Cambridge Analytica says it never received Twitter data from Global Science Research or Aleksandr Kogan, and has never done any work with GSR on Twitter data,” Reuters Tech on Twitter.

Also, worth reading: Twitter as Data

A letter from Om

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