Why Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter is a privacy concern

Why Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter is a privacy concern

On Monday, April 25, Elon Musk reached an agreement worth approximately $ 44 billion to acquire Twitter, which will become a private company. In early comments following the deal, Musk listed a number of goals for the platform, ranging from "making algorithms open source to build trust" to addressing the spambot problem and "authenticating all humans." While no further indications are yet available on how Musk intends to manage Twitter, advocates of privacy and security argue that the entrepreneur's initial comments paint a contradictory picture about the possible future direction of the social network, revealing the risks associated with relying on platforms. for the protection of our private information.

Elon Musk has bought Twitter: the background After weeks of negotiations, the company has decided to accept the entrepreneur's $ 44 billion offer, which promises big changes to the platform Unlike Facebook and other platforms that require users to use their "real name", Twitter allows you to use pseudonyms or remain anonymous, an approach that could change with Musk. Musk will soon be able to access all Twitter user data, including IP addresses and direct message (dm) content. Since they are not protected by end-to-end encryption, DMs on Twitter can be accessed by anyone who controls the platform. Advocates of the technology have long pointed out that end-to-end encryption, in addition to shielding data from prying eyes, also empowers users in the long run, regardless of who owns the service.

Possible government interference "Now Elon Musk is literally the king of Twitter. There is nothing to stop him from accessing your direct messages or delivering them to a government, perhaps in a country where Tesla is looking to do business, ”explains Evan Greer, deputy director of digital rights group Fight for the future. For example, the Chinese government is known to oversee both public debate and private communications of citizens, requiring technology companies to retain user identity information despite the fact that a pseudonym can be used to post content online. As pointed out in a tweet by Jeff Bezos on Monday, Tesla - another of Musk's other companies - has significant business interests in China. Twitter, meanwhile, continues to be a thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

Like other tech giants, Twitter has spent years developing systems to report, for example, the number of inquiries from part of the governments or the requests for removal of contents. Musk has made it known that transparency will be one of his priorities at Twitter, but it is not yet clear what areas he plans to focus on and what his stance will be on issues such as government requests for access to user data.

In general, advocates of digital rights point out that open standards protect debate more effectively than closed ecosystems, as they allow multiple organizations to offer different versions of an interoperable service, thus ensuring more choice for users (think to text messages and emails). In practice, however, users have flocked to relatively immediate and easy-to-use platforms like Twitter. In recent years, the company has also introduced a program, Project Blue Sky, to explore the possibilities of transforming Twitter from a single closed service into an interoperable and standardized platform.

The issue of authentication When it comes to "authenticate all humans," Musk may be referring to a plan to reduce spambots by having users enter captchas before posting a tweet, to prove he is not a bot. While its feasibility remains to be understood, according to privacy and security advocates such a system could actually be useful in theory. In the worst case scenario, however, Musk may be willing to enable Twitter to collect information about each user to internally confirm that they are a natural person or, worse still, make it possible to have a Twitter account only using their own. legal identity.

"I don't know what Musk meant, but what would worry me most would be [a situation where everyone has to authenticate their identity on Twitter - explains Jeff Kosseff, an associate professor of Cybersecurity Law at the US Naval Academy - On Twitter you can read a lot of opinions that are not found on platforms like Facebook that require you to use your real name. And it cannot be said that platforms like Facebook are a beacon. of civility thanks to the policy on the use of the real name. Any obligation to provide identifying information, even if it does not force you to publish content using the pr or your name, for many people it would alter the ability to express themselves online, especially outside the United States ".

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Arrow Musk is likely to share more details about his plans for Twitter soon. In the meantime, however, the situation of society represents a reminder of the uncertain and unpredictable path on which all private platforms are found.

"The extreme centralization and privatization of online spaces disproportionately harms those without access to mainstream media - explains Greer of Fight for the Future -. For human rights activists, small business owners, independent musicians and members of marginalized communities, the fact that a platform is being ripped from under their feet, or even just that an algorithm being changed without warning, it can have a profound impact on their ability to make themselves heard, earn a living, or even survive. "

As Meta continues to push to extend end-to-end encryption to Facebook Messenger and Instagram direct messages, it remains to understand what Twitter will do under Musk's leadership in terms of users' private communications.

"It's a co sa scary. [So far, ed.] Twitter has done relatively well with privacy, but this acquisition could be a serious problem for people who use the platform and have been protected by the company - explains Johns Hopkins cryptographer Matthew Green -. Maybe you should use Twitter direct messages only to distribute your own Signal number. So Elon can send you a message on Signal ".

This article originally appeared on sportsgaming.win US.

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