Twitter announced via email yesterday that all users will soon be switched over to Twitter’s new link shortening service "t.co". All links posted on Twitter will use it and the company will store a log of all clicks on links posted to Twitter. In short, Twitter will have a central repository of all links and clicked links on its service and the wealth of consumer information that comes with it.
There are obvious privacy concerns. CNET reports that a security breach could lead to the use and abuse of user data from millions of people worldwide. This would come in addition to the personal information already stored by Twitter in user accounts. And this kind of user analytic information could be demanded for use in investigations and court cases. Twitter is setting itself up for all kinds of enquiries. But of course many other companies already store your click data – like Yahoo! and bit.ly for example.
The most troubling aspect to this story is the absence of any ability for users to opt out. This may cause users to walk away from Twitter altogether - or, hopefully, will force a re-think of Twitter’s privacy terms and conditions when people realise that they have been co-opted into a service that stores so much more data about them.
Apple’s new social media service on iTunes (Ping) prompts the user to opt in first the service can be used: so when a user chooses to use Ping, they are walked through a series of privacy questions before anything else. This is quite a departure from companies automatically opting in all users to settings that they are unaware of until they do a little bit of digging around. Maybe Twitter can learn a thing or two from Ping and offer their customers the choice to opt in or opt out of click tracking.