Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

Summary: Twitter admitted that it stores your contact list data for 18 months, which comes only days after Path received heavy criticism for uploading contact data without users' consent.

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A harmless button in Twitter's mobile application bears a resemblance to Path's contact list uploading controversy.

Twitter has admitted it stores user contact details --- including phone numbers and email addresses --- for an 18-month retention period when the service's "Find friends" feature is used.

New and existing Twitter followers alike can upload their contacts list and address books from a variety of platforms to see if any of their contacts match up to a Twitter registered account. Once users access the feature from one of its smartphone applications, it uploads the data and is subsequently stored for 18 months.

The Twitter application for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices does not ask for permission before it scans your contacts and reveals your contacts' Twitter accounts.

Looking into Twitter's privacy policy, it does not explicitly disclose that it uploads and stores your contact information.

There are two factors to consider here:

Firstly, authorities have expressed interest on a number of occasions for Twitter data. Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of Iceland’s parliament, had her Twitter account subpoenaed by U.S. authorities along with 600,000 other @wikileaks followers. The gagging order injunction on the case was fought and removed with the help of Twitter, bringing the subpoena to light.

The case of the "very British affair" regarding super-injunctions paved way for a UK court to 'subpoena' the names of individuals who broke the court ordered injunction by tweeting the names of celebrities who blocked the entire UK from discussing a factor in their private lives.

Secondly, the authorities are more interested in who you are connected with, rather than what you actually tweet. One counter-terrorism expert highlighted in 2009 in a BBC News article that it was "contact not content". It's not to say that you won't be barred from entering the United States if you jokingly say you are going to "destroy America", however.

Tweets do last forever, but it is unclear as to how long deleted tweets are retained for. "Log data", such as users IP address, referring page, pages visited, search terms, and even "other actions" and "interactions with our website" may be recorded and stored.

In reaching out to Twitter, to clarify how long other data, including tweet data is retained for, the company did not respond immediately for comment.

A statement to the LA Times, however, spokesperson Carolyn Penner said the company wanted to "be clear and transparent" in its communications with its users.

"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" [iPhone] and "Import your contacts" [Android]," she said.

Image source: ZDNet.

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Topics: Mobility, Telcos, Social Enterprise

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10 comments
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  • RE: Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

    Another reason to use WP7. In WP7 platform, there is no malware, no secret SMS sending or access to it and no Contact stealing.
    owlnet
    • RE: Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

      @owlnet
      because no one is using WP7. no contacts to steal
      tiderulz
  • RE: Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

    Just one MORE reason NOT to use these lame social networking sites.
    IT_Fella
  • Now that the US practices guilt by association ...

    People need to be a lot more careful about managing their contacts, "likes" and other social interactions. All it takes is one suspected entry in your list, and now YOU are a suspect too. And of course you have no idea what's happening until it's too late.
    terry flores
    • RE: Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

      @terry flores
      McCarthyism at its best
      tiderulz
      • RE: McCarthyism at its best

        @tiderulz

        I bet ole [i]Tailgunner Joe[/i] must be laughing out loud in hell; to see the US stoop back to his cowardly tactics.
        fatman65536
  • RE: Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

    I see two real problems with this. One, the retention time is way too long. Two, "Find Friends" could be clearer about what it does and double checks for approval to transmit contacts.<br><br>But, I really can't see how any application would know who my friends were without checking my contacts and I accept that that check will be done on their server, against their list of clients, rather than my phone.<br><br>Check that. There may be ways a service would know who my friends are, and I would be really, really creeped out if that knowledge did not require access to my contacts in some way.
    DannyO_0x98
  • RE: Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

    BIG difference between "scan" and "import".
    William_P
  • Lame. Twitter doesn't need to know who your contacts are.

    If 99.99999% of your twitter followers aren't your friends/contacts then you needn't be tweeting. The infrastructure wasn't set up for your self esteem.
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Twitter uploads contact list data without consent; retains for 18 months

    Sorry, it is obvious to me that "scan your contents for people you know on Twitter" means Twitter has access to the data on my contacts list. Whether they actually upload the list or just transfer some data to the servers to see if there is a corresponding Twitter account, it doesn't really change anything. For that very reason, I have never performed those actions on social media including Twitter.
    TechieJohn2