Buying Elon Musk on Twitter exposes privacy minefield

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Elon Musk is safe agreement on monday buy Twitter for about $44 billion and make the company private. In his initial comments Regarding the move, Musk discussed a range of goals from “making algorithms open to increase trust” to fighting spambots and “authenticating all people.” There’s no further details yet on how Musk will manage Twitter, but privacy and security advocates say these initial comments paint a mixed picture of where the social media giant could be heading under his new leadership and reveal the risks associated with the platforms’ credibility. to protect our private information.

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Unlike Facebook and other platforms that enforce a “real name” policy, Twitter largely allows people to use pseudonyms or remain anonymous, an approach that could change under The Mask. In addition, Musk will soon be able to access all Twitter user data, including IP addresses and the content of private messages. Twitter private messages are not particularly end-to-end encryption, which means they can be accessed by anyone who controls the platform. Proponents of end-to-end encryption have long emphasized that protection not only protects user data from prying eyes of all kinds, but also gives users the ability to work in the long run, regardless of who owns the service and when.

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“Elon Musk is now literally the king of Twitter. There is nothing stopping him from accessing your direct messages or giving them to the government — possibly in the country where Tesla is trying to do business,” says Evan Greer, associate director of Fight for the Future’s digital rights group. The Chinese government, for example, is notorious control both public discourse and private communication, requiring tech companies to keep records of their users’ identities, even if people are allowed to post using a pseudonym. As a rival to ultra-billionaire Jeff Bezos highlighted in a tweet thread on Monday, one of Musk’s other companies, Tesla, has major business interests in China. Meanwhile on Twitter remains a thorn in the side of Beijing.

Like other tech giants, Twitter has spent years building systems for making report things like the number of government requests for information it receives or legal requests to remove content. Musk has indicated that transparency will be a priority for him on Twitter, but it remains unknown what areas he wants to focus on and what his position will be on issues such as government requests for user data.

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In general, digital rights advocates point out that open standards protect speech more effectively than closed ecosystems because they allow multiple organizations to offer versions of interoperable services from which users can choose. (Think of SMS and email as two examples of these types of services.) However, in practice, users flock to the relative simplicity and ease of use that platforms like Twitter offer. In recent years, the company has even launched its own research program, Project Blue Skyto consider ways to make Twitter a functional, standards-based platform rather than a single closed service.

When Musk talks about “authenticating all people,” he may be referring to a plan to reduce spambots by, say, forcing users to complete a captcha before they tweet to prove they are human. It’s not clear how feasible such a system is, but theoretically, as privacy and security advocates say, it’s the best-case scenario that could actually be useful. The worst-case scenario, however, is that Musk advocates a situation in which Twitter will either collect information about each user to internally verify that they are an individual, or worse, require users to have Twitter accounts. only under its own legal entity. .

“I don’t know what Musk means by that, but my biggest concern would be that everyone would have to authenticate their identity with Twitter,” says Jeff Koseff, assistant professor of cybersecurity law at the US Naval Academy. “There are many voices heard on Twitter that cannot be heard on platforms with real name policies like Facebook. And platforms like Facebook aren’t a bastion of civility anyway because of their real name policy. Any minor requirement to provide identifying information, even if it doesn’t require you to post under your real name, will really change the ability of many people to speak online, especially outside of the US.”

Presumably, Musk will soon share more details about his plans for Twitter. Meanwhile, the situation serves as a warning about the uncertain and unpredictable path that all private platforms eventually take.

“The extreme centralization and privatization of the online space is disproportionately hurting those who don’t have access to traditional media,” says Fight for the Future’s Greer. “For human rights activists, small business owners, independent musicians and people from marginalized communities. if your platform is ripped out from under your feet, or even if the algorithm is simply changed without warning, it can greatly affect your ability to be heard, make a living, or even survive.”

As the Meta continues promote their position on the implementation of end-to-end encryption it remains to be seen for Facebook Messenger and Instagram DMs what Musk-led Twitter will do with its private user messages.

“It’s scary. Twitter has been relatively good at privacy and this takeover could be a big problem for people who use the platform and are protected by the company,” says Johns Hopkins cryptographer Matthew Green. “I guess just use Twitter DM to give out your number signal. And then Elon will be able to send you a signal message.


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