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Tech Researcher Slammed Twitter For Taking Over A User Account And Joking About Reading DMs

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Twitter

Twitter made a bold move, but it did not pay off. Twitter took over one of its user’s accounts for fun and then tweeted jokes about reading the private messages in the user’s private messages, amid the growing the call for social media platforms to improve security processes following a series of security breaches and leaks involving the tech giants.

For a little context: the owner initiated the take over of the account and willingly volunteered to do the prank. The account owner was Matt Navarra, a famous tech researcher known to be one of the first to spot new features rolled out by different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Navarra is a widely credited individual for different tech-related news as the person to have discovered a lot of things in the tech world. Many news agencies have been in contact with Matt which means his Direct Messages probably include a lot of conversations between himself and journalists.

He is also one of those who is tipped first for new features and revelations in the tech world. It can be assumed that his DMs are also full of conversations and confidential information from tipsters. Not to mention that it probably also includes a massive amount of private conversations with him and his family and friends.

One of Navarra’s friends in the tech world was not happy with what happened. Jane Manchun Wong, a tech researcher who, like Navarra, has become famous after publishing her findings as she research for undisclosed and unreleased features from different apps and websites, has expressed on her Twitter account her disappointment for what had happened and called it an “invasion of privacy.”

“I am not comfortable with Twitter accessing our conversation with Matt Navarra because I’ve talked about my personal matters and I expected Matt would only have access to. Not cool going through someone else’s DM inbox. This is an invasion of privacy,” Wong posted in her Twitter account.

Navarra had the idea on Monday and tweeted out a call for someone to run his account for a day. He said that he was experiencing a family emergency during the day that he posted the ‘call’ for account take over and he wanted to offer someone the chance to tweet as him for a day as he takes his day off. He said that he thought that would be fun.

When Twitter, through its official handle, “raised hand” to volunteer to take Navarra’s offer, many of his followers have initially supported it – which they touted as “epic,” “gold” and a “great idea!” – without realizing the security and privacy implications of the plan.

Wong, in her Twitter post, said that people should not be sharing their login credentials and two-step authentication codes, “especially not over the internet without end-to-end encryption. Wong also slammed what happened as a bad security practice. She said:

“Sure, the whole parody is interesting and all, but this is an example of bad security practice.”

She further questioned why Twitter needed to take over Matt’s account if their purpose was only to post on his behalf. This is something, said Wong, could have been done by the tech giant with Twitter API.

“If the only purpose of this “takeover” is to post something from Matt’s twitter account, it can already be achieved with Twitter API (with limited permission granted). Better yet, Twitter should implement scoped team account permission (e.g., only letting team members to post),” she added.

Apparently, a screenshot of the DMs between Matt and Twitter, the tech researcher even offered Twitter his DMs personally telling Twitter to “enjoy [his] DMs.”

Wong slammed the idea that her personal and private communications were compromised just for fun. She blamed herself for telling her personal hardships to someone because privacy and security will be disregarded just because it’s “fun.”

“Lesson learned, I should not trust anyone on telling them about my personal hardships because it will eventually be exposed to someone else in the name of the fun takeover,” she posted.

Nonetheless, she received some hate for expressing her feelings in the possible violation of her privacy related to the event. She said that people have been telling her that she “shouldn’t have sent that DM in the first place,” “you’re just bitter about it,” and to “stop being overly sensitive about it.” /apr

A Consumer Tech and Cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Cybersecurity

iOS Twitter Users Had Their Location “Inadvertently” Sent To Twitter’s “Trusted Partner”

Twitter said that they inadvertently sent iOS location data to a trusted advertising partner due to a bug that enabled them to send those data inadvertently. Click To Tweet

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Twitter has sent iOS location data to a trusted partner due to a bug.
Twitter said that they inadvertently sent iOS location data to a trusted advertising partner. Photo: Stock Catalog | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Because of a bug in Twitter’s system, the popular social media and microblogging site announced this week that they had been inadvertently collecting and sharing location data from iOS versions of their application and sending it to a trusted partner without the consent of the affected users.

In a blog post, Twitter said that they discovered a data breach caused by a bug and they were “inadvertently collecting and sharing iOS location data with one of our trusted partners in certain circumstances.”

The said data breach specifically affected those who have been using more than one account in an iOS Twitter app while their precise location setting has been enabled.

“we may have accidentally collected location data when you were using any other account(s) on that same device for which you had not turned on the precise location feature,” Twitter wrote.

Nonetheless, Twitter clarified that none of the transmitted data were actually “precise” location data because it was already “fuzzed” to only include a ZIP code or city (5 km squared), adding that the disclosed data could not be used to map the location of the affected users.

Twitter also assured the affected users that the partner did not receive any identifiable information such as Twitter handles or other unique account IDs that could have compromised the affected user’s identity.

Furthermore, Twitter said that the inadvertent sending of users’ location data happened during a process called “real-time bidding” (RTB) with one of its “trusted advertising partner.”

“We have fixed this problem and are working hard to make sure it does not happen again. We have also communicated with the people whose accounts were impacted to let them know the bug has been fixed. We invite you to check your privacy settings to make sure you’re only sharing the data you want to with us,” they assured their users.

As for those who are concerned whether or not their data was used by whoever received it, Twitter clarified that they had communication with their partner and found out that the advertising company did not retain the information that was unintentionally sent to them.

“We have confirmed with our partner that the location data has not been retained and that it only existed in their systems for a short time, and was then deleted as part of their normal process.”

It is still unclear when this unintentional sending of user location data nor did Twitter name who the trusted partner is in its post regarding the bug.

Reporters have reached out to Twitter to gain further insight regarding what happened, but Twitter refused to comment further than they have already posted in their announcement. On the other hand, they said that they have already notified the users who were affected by the bug problem and noted that other victims could contact Twitter by filling up this form.

“We’re very sorry this happened. We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us and are committed to earning that trust every day.”

Twitter is not the only social media company who had an internal data vulnerability this year. It can be remembered that Facebook has been recording the passwords of some of their users in plain text, a human-readable format, that allows whoever has access to the database can read, understand, and use the user passwords included in it.

Facebook’s Pedro Canahuati, vice president of engineering for security and privacy, initially referred to “some” user passwords that were accessible to Facebook employees. A paragraph later, he revealed that “hundreds of millions of Facebook Lite users, millions of Facebook users, and tens of thousands of Instagram users” would be notified.

Facebook clarified that the issue was purely internal and that only their employees have access to the user passwords. Nonetheless, tech experts have slammed Facebook for the recklessness of what they have done.

“To be clear, these passwords were never visible to anyone outside of Facebook, and we have found no evidence to date that anyone internally abused or improperly accessed them,” Canahuati wrote.

The California-based company said that they already notified users who were affected by the problem and advised them to change their password following the rectification done by Facebook.

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Social Media

Twitter Is Fighting Anti-Vaxx Misinformation With This New Tool

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You will now be directed to reliable information regarding vaccination if you search related terms on Twitter to fight anti-vaxx propaganda

As the public pressure for tech companies and open platforms to do a better job in fighting fake news and misinformation, Twitter seems to be the newest tech company to set up mechanisms to curb anti-vaxx in the social media stratosphere.

Starting Friday, Twitter will be directing users who actively searched for tweets related to vaccination to a post from the United States Department of Health and Human Services linking them to several reliable sources of health information instead of anti-vaccination propaganda.

“Know the facts,” the post reads. “To make sure you get the best information on vaccinations, resources are available from the US Department of Health & Human Services.”

This follows the announcement made by the social media giant that it will be launching a new tool to help fight the rampant misinformation by prompting users to head to vaccines.org, a website ran by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re committed to protecting the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the blog post read. “Ensuring individuals can find information from authoritative sources is a key part of that mission.”

The intense pressure against social media platforms and other tech companies by lawmakers and the public to remove anti-vaxx propaganda from their platforms have yielded significant response. It all started when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai regarding his concern with the technology giants which are authorizing the escalation of anti-vaccine misinformation.

His letters indicated that Facebook and Instagram are allowing, as well as, recommending messages that discourage parents from vaccinating their children. According to Schiff, this is a direct threat to public health and degraded progress in battling vaccine-preventable diseases. He also asked Zuckerberg whether distributing medically inaccurate and false information about vaccines violated the platform’s terms of service and if Facebook accepts paid advertisement from anti-vaccine activities, among others.

Facebook responded through a representative who said that the group has already taken steps to reduce the distribution of health-related misinformation and are currently working with outside experts on additional changes that will take place sooner.

Google, which also owns Youtube, has not directly responded to the letters but affirmed that it has worked to improve recommendations regarding misinformation. Schiff’s after seeing Youtube’s announcement last January which no longer recommends videos that violate its community guidelines including “content that could misinform users in harmful ways” was very pleased.

Heeding the same call, Youtube has launched several new mechanisms to discourage anti-vaccination content in their video sharing platform. The famous video-based social media network has started removing ads from anti-vaxx videos to demonetized them and discourage those who plan to leverage on the popularity of the anti-vaccine sentiment and produce contents which sell on Youtube.

Similarly, a letter has also been sent to Amazon to respond in the same manner as that of Youtube as several netizens have raised concerns that anti-vaxx publication was being advertised in the popular e-commerce site’s sponsored ads.

This time, as Twitter has its own contribution in resisting the growth of misinformation, have also taken a stand. The new tool shows up on Android, iOS, Twitter’s mobile site, and on the newly designed desktop site in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and Korea as of right now.

In the past, a similar tool was launched by Twitter to direct users actively searching for terms relating to suicide to the contact number of a hotline for help. In the blog post released by Twitter to announce the new tool, the company is planning to extend this tool to other health-related search terms soon.

“This new investment builds on our existing work to guard against the artificial amplification of non-credible content about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines,” the blog said.

The intensifying social pressure was triggered by the influx of measles outbreak and the popularity of anti-vaxx sentiments in social media that lead to the declining number of children getting vaccinated. A few months ago, a state of emergency had been officially declared in Washington due to a measles outbreak which affected 58 people, same with other Asian countries like the Philippines. Experts believe that aside from the lack of vaccination, which caused the spread of the disease, anti-vaccine movements also are to blame on the said outpour.

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Twitter

In-App Appeal Resolves Suspension Faster, Twitter Claims

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Twitter In-App Appeal

Twitter users who get suspended for violating guidelines and conduct procedures can now appeal directly inside the app; a new feature that the company says will give a solution to the previous longer waiting time it takes before getting a response.

The social media giant unveiled the feature on Tuesday in a tweet that showed how a recently suspended user goes through the steps of filing an appeal. The goal here is to maintain a steady relationship between users and the company without violating any rules and procedures conducted by Twitter. Furthermore, the new app will give a democratic response to users by not curtailing its right to express, but give them a secure avenue that does not tolerate wrongful behavior.

In the previous process, after a user tweet something that gets reported or surpasses what the company deems constitutional, Twitter moderators decides whether or not your account deserves to be suspended. Users who believed that Twitter’s action was unnecessary, had to resort to an online form, and response times usually varied from a few hours to more than a week depending on the offense.

Twitter claims that its new in-app reporting feature will cut down response time by 60 percent. If Twitter decides you broke its rules, you will then receive a notification together with the content in question, the law in violation, and a link to its guidelines. You will have a choice of either removing your tweet totally or apply for an appeal. If you choose the appeal process, a write-in box appears that lets you add any context that the moderators may have missed. This means that you have the power to explain your point or defend your thoughts on the matter.

The in-app appeal process is part of a larger effort by Twitter to be more transparent about how it conducts harmful behavior. Over the past years, the company has been bombarded by a lot of issues especially on the rampant abuse that pervades on its platform. It confessed that it was a struggle for the social media giant to get a hold on the abusive users who proliferate violence, bullying, and threat among others.

Although Twitter is finally getting more active in implementing its terms and policies, others are questioning the appealing feature. They expressed that the appeal process is another manifestation of Twitter to control its users, especially on sensitive topics like politics, gender issues, and terrorism. This is an app where people used to express their opinions and side of the story about problems that are mostly forgotten, but what happened to it? Twitter has been the most reliable and most robust media platform before, generating tweets which allow users to discuss hot issues every now and then freely; but those days are gone.

Some challenged the moderators’ way on detecting tweets which they deem wrongful or against its rule. Looking at the terms and policies of the company, one has to agree that it is too broad which can be simplified first, so an average person understands the draw line between what’s acceptable to post or not. The problem is, if a normal person tweets and suddenly gets flagged by Twitter without even understanding the latter’s terms, chances are, that particular individual may resort to an appeal and choose to remove the content in question, so his or her account recovers. That situation alone becomes a problem because one needs to know the cause of his or her violation before jumping into the solution.

Some tactics are also explored by Twitter including changing its algorithm to rank the health of conversations and purging accounts by white nationalists and other hate groups. As Twitter ramps up its enforcement efforts, more benign behavior will get swept up in the process. The new feature will surely be of advantage for innocent users to make a fast return online, but they need to comprehend why enforcement actions were taken.

The in-app feature of Twitter is a preventive way to deal with violence and obscenity that pervade on its platform. But if Twitter wants a free-speech and violence-free platform, it needs to simplify the terms and policies first so everyone can fully understand the limitation of their tweets. The appeal process should clarify things and not complicate it. Twitter should cultivate a culture of people who question and understand things, not tolerate idiocy among its users

Photo: marek.sotak

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