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Twitter Is ‘Reading’ Your Direct Messages

What's hiding in that 'Direct Message' inbox of yours?

Anything compromising? Nothing you need worry about?

We only ask because it turns out Twitter might have been reading them over your shoulder all this whole time.

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Twitter this week, after Wilford Raney and others complained that "Twitter surreptitiously eavesdrops on its users’ private Direct Message communications. As soon as a user sends a Direct Message, Twitter intercepts, reads, and, at times, even alters the message".

The niggle lies in how Twitter handles the path of your 'DM': rather than heading straight to the recipient's inbox, it is first scanned by a Twitter algorithm (note: not a human) which shortens long URLs for shorter ones. This is 'proof' that DMs are being read in a previously unknown manner.

This, the suit claims, allows Twitter to benefit in underhand fashion: should you send your friend a DM link to a ShortList.com article, Twitter's algorithm will swap in their own, traceable link, thus allowing them to keep an eye on how well their own service is acting as a traffic source, and thus charge a higher advertising rate in the long term.

It's going to be a tricky legal battle of semantics: Twitter doesn't describe its Direct Messages as 'private', but rather 'more private' than sending a public Tweet. No humans are involved in scanning your Direct Messages, so it's not clear if the network is actually breaking any privacy laws if it's just computers looking for URLs. Google was hit by a similar lawsuit that claimed it was reading Gmail messages for keywords.

Twitter has told TechCrunch that it believes "the claims are meritless and we intend to fight them".

No - your inbox isn't about to get leaked all over the dark web, but it does serve as a reminder than anything you send anywhere on the web - no matter the level of privacy you think is involved - can be read by something or someone at any time.

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