Twitter is now the latest in a slew of companies to come under fire for storing users’ personal data without telling users.
The popular social networking site has acknowledged that after mobile users click the “Find Friends” feature on its smartphone app, the company downloads users’ entire address books and keeps the data on its servers for 18 months. The “Find Friends” mobile feature reads, “Scan your Contacts for people you already know on Twitter.” What it does not explicitly disclose is that Twitter downloads and stores user address books.
“The FTC could look at this and find that it is unfair and deceptive,” Ginger McCall, Director of EPIC’s Open Government Program, tells CNBC. “There is a lack of transparency. The company did not inform people what they did with their own data. The FTC could and should do an investigation.”
In response, Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner told CNBC in an email that the company plans on updating the text they use in the mobile app.
“We want to be clear and transparent in our communications with users," Penner wrote. “Along those lines, in our next app updates, which are coming soon, we are updating the language associated with Find Friends — to be more explicit. In place of "Scan your contacts" we will use "Upload your contacts" and "Import your contacts" (in Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android, respectively).”
In a recent effort to improve user safety, Twitter made HTTP Secure the default setting for all profiles. This secure setting protects user information while encrypting communication and is especially helpful over an unsecured internet connection, like a public Wi-Fi network.
Path, a social media platform that limits one’s connections with 150 people, also ran into trouble this month with how it handled its users’ personal phone contacts. Path later apologized and said it will change its ways.
Mobile users should note that one has the ability to remove contacts from Twitter’s database on the desktop website. Once there, you can take solace in the fact that at least the browser is secure.
Twitter’s more than 100 million active users can take solace in the fact that at least the browser is secure.