Twitter stashes user contacts

Smart phone and social networking privacy worries have mounted on news that Twitter has admitted to 'harvesting' phone contacts from owners' address books.

User privacy is broken when Twitter users tick the 'Find Friends' menu to see which of their friends use the service. Twitter now claims it will make such an option more explicit to users.

Take a peek

Social networking sites are now used by 37m Britons, so the implications are far-ranging. However there is no implication that Twitter was using the encrypted data for anything else. The Twitter news story follows hard behind two congressmen from the US House Energy and Commerce committee contacting Apple. They want to know why Apple adopts a similar practice, breaching app developer rules, on its iPhone.

"Apps that collect or transmit a user's contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines," an Apple spokesman told Reuters. "We're working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release."

Surprise, surprise

What is disconcerting about this story is the surprise element. People are surprised their privacy, potentially, can be so completely undermined. To that extent, it reflects the nature of smart phone mobile technology. Despite the maturity of the computer market, the smart 'phone market remains young and immature.

Which is why this latest privacy blow-up won't be the last, as technology continues to race forward. Companies like Google are also attempting to deal with the issue. The maker of the Android operating system software claims it asks developers to gain up-front user permission for personal data access.
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