Twitter grabbing address books from phones

2012-02-18

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Politics, Security, Writing

Here’s an example of what I mean about the internet creating all sorts of new security vulnerabilities. Twitter has recently confessed to grabbing entire address books from the smartphones of people using the service.

As well as being a violation of privacy, this is a practice that could seriously endanger people. Consider all those brave protestors in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, using Twitter to help organize a pro-democracy movement. If Twitter is grabbing their address books, it is assembling a perfect tool for the intelligence services of governments to round up everyone involved in protests. The same is true for people pressing for democracy in China, or doing anything else that is laudable but unpopular with the people in charge.

Technology companies need to recognize that there will be people who want to use their records and capabilities for nefarious purposes, and they need to design their technology and procedures to protect against such attacks and reduce how serious they are when they take place.

The companies that make operating systems for smartphones should also assume that applications can be ineptly designed or malicious, and should work to protect the data on the phone from potential eavesdroppers.

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