Beyond the twit of man

Recently I got an email from Twitter telling me about their new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service (and omitting to mention that they’re selling your tweets). So I went and read the small print, and found that it included the following:

“Our Services are primarily designed to help you share information with the world. Most of the information you provide us is information you are asking us to make public. This includes not only the messages you Tweet and the metadata provided with Tweets, such as when you Tweeted, but also the lists you create, the people you follow, the Tweets you mark as favorites or Retweet, and many other bits of information that result from your use of the Services. Our default is almost always to make the information you provide public for as long as you do not delete it from Twitter, but we generally give you settings to make the information more private if you want. Your public information is broadly and instantly disseminated. For instance, your public user profile information and public Tweets may be searchable by search engines and are immediately delivered via SMS and our APIs to a wide range of users and services, with one example being the United States Library of Congress, which archives Tweets for historical purposes. When you share information or content like photos, videos, and links via the Services, you should think carefully about what you are making public.” [emphasis mine]

There’s a lot of emphasis these days on the evils of social media companies (notably Facebook) making content public without users’ knowledge or explicit consent: in that context, Twitter’s stance seems sensible enough (I’ve been saying “think about what you’re making public” since the days when I spent as much time on netnews as I now spend on Twitter) … however, it seems rather ironic in light of the fact that Twitter will only let you access your last 3200 tweets. I asked to make those tweets public, I wanted to make those tweets public. As far as I was aware at the time, I did make them public: I knew that they would be indexed by search engines — welcomed the fact, as Google offers a much better means of searching Twitter than Twitter’s own search. And yet Twitter won’t let me or anybody else access them (at least, not without a lot of jumping through hoops). That’s not actually very public, is it?

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