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Twitter Accused Of Privacy Violations In Lawsuit

Has Twitter been violating its users privacy by scanning, reading, or otherwise altering content that users have sent one another through Twitter’s “private” direct message system?

A recent lawsuit filed against Twitter answers the question with a definitive “yes,” accusing the company of eavesdropping on its unsuspecting users.  The individuals behind the lawsuit are a part of Edelson PC, a self-described “leader in privacy and tech-related class actions.”

The foundation of the accusation centers around Twitter’s URL shortening feature, which detects when users send each other links and automatically creates a new, shorter URL hosted on their own service to point to that address.

For example, when sending the link to another user in a direct message, it will be converted to a link such as, though the users will still see original URL on their screen.

The function gives Twitter the ability to track when the links are clicked and lets Twitter know what people are talking about, raising questions about how private direct messages really are.

USA Today reached out to Twitter for comment on the lawsuit.  A response from Twitter by email denied that there is any merit to the claims, saying they “intend to fight” the accusations.

We believe these claims are meritless and we intend to fight them.

Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington was quoted as saying that the lawsuit will never go anywhere, because a Judge will compare the automated algorithm that identifies and replaces links analogous to something less sinister, like spell-check.  Calo stated that the odds Twitter will face any legal action over this are as low Google’s risk of legal action for Gmail, which scans emails for advertising purposes.

What Twitter is doing is probably not legally actionable any more than Gmail scanning emails for advertising.

According to ABC 2 News, if the judge does allow the lawsuit to become class-action, anyone who has sent a direct message on the service could be eligible for up to $100 for every day they sent out a direct message communication.

With 974 million existing Twitter accounts, this could potentially add up to be a staggering amount of money — assuming the lawsuit gets that far.

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