Twitter Claims To Move User Accounts For Privacy But Is It Being Honest?

Twitter Claims To Move User Accounts For Privacy But Is It Being Honest?

Twitter claims to have taken drastic steps this week to shield it's users from NSA spying, has learned. In an update to its privacy policy on Friday Twitter created a two-lane service that treats US and non-US users differently. But is this what's really going on?

If you live in the US, your account is still controlled by San Francisco-based Twitter Inc, but if you live anywhere else in the world your account is now handled by Twitter International Company in Dublin, Ireland. The changes also affect Twitter's new live streaming app Periscope.

The significance is that Twitter Inc is governed by US law, it is obliged to comply with NSA-driven court requests for data. Data stored in Ireland is not subject to the same obligation.

The move comes after Facebook adopted the same tactic earlier this year. The change could also have implications for how advertising is handled in the future and is not necessarily good for users.

While the company gets to make headlines for protecting user privacy Ireland has the most relaxed privacy laws of any European country. This is important for any company looking to monetize user data through advertising. While data that is processed in Europe may in theory be beyond the reach of the NSA, the policy change makes for a convenient sidestep of future legislation which may make it more difficult for US-based companies to share data about European users with advertisers.

The reality is that the NSA has access to every single bit of data on every single user, regardless of where it is hosted. Its reach is unparalleled and its operations so sophisticated that few people can fully appreciate just how comprehensive their reach is. In short, they see absolutely everything. Twitter knows this which makes their claims about the NSA ring hollow.

The fact is that on social media, you and your information are the product. The company wants to ensure it is not limited by pesky laws - current or future - and so is taking steps to make sure it can continue to use you and your data as it pleases.

The changes kick in on 18 May 2015 and Twitter briefly explains them in a policy update post:

If you live outside the United States, our services are now provided to you by Twitter International Company, our company based in Dublin, Ireland. Twitter International Company will be responsible for handling your account information under Irish privacy and data protection law, which is based on the European Union’s Data Protection Directive.

If you live in the United States, the services will continue to be provided to you by Twitter, Inc., based in San Francisco, California, under United States law.

Of course avoiding the NSA or making advertising easier are not quite how Twitter explains the reason for the change:

As more people around the world use our services, we’ve expanded our operations to improve how we support our users globally.

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