Tech by VICE

Twitter Is Joking About How Much it Knows About You

Dear Twitter, do you actually remember all our tweets?

by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai
Oct 16 2019, 4:12pm

Twitter has been on a full-on charm offensive lately, literally printing out people’s tweets and plastering them all over public transportation—as if we needed more tweets in our lives. In doing so, Twitter is reminding everyone that it has a record of every tweet. It's now gone a step further:

Do you, actually, Twitter?

Alex Hern, tech editor at the Guardian, jokingly pointed out that this tweet may be a violation of Europe’s much talked about GDPR, a ground-breaking privacy and security law that has already changed how a lot of companies operate on the internet and allows European users to request the data that companies have collected on them.

I guess we’re all trolling on Twitter, but a company worth billions of dollars joking about how much it knows or remembers about you is really not that funny. Users around the world are demanding tech companies to be more transparent about what data they collect, store, and retain.

Does Twitter actually remember the first tweets of people who delete their tweets regularly? In other words, does it have a backup of deleted tweets?

Twitter did not answer specific questions on the record but said that tweets are public, so they have nothing to do with GDPR, and when users delete their public tweets, those are gone immediately.

On its official guidelines for law enforcement, Twitter says it “retains different types of information for different time periods.” I’m not a lawyer, but that does not seem to answer my question. There is no clear answer on this other page either.

In an interview with The Verge, Twitter’s product lead said they may be working on some new product features around this larger problem.

“Fear of speaking in public and fear of retaliation or fear of being harassed and harassment means many different things to many people. Or fear of being held accountable for something that is not what you meant. These are some of the biggest reasons why people don’t tweet. Which is why we actually take this very seriously,” Kayvon Beykpour said.

What Twitter does with our tweets, DMs, and other data is a really important question, and in flippantly joking about it, Twitter is reminding all of us that, in the end, we don't really know—but don’t worry, a new feature is coming.

This story has been updated to include Twitter's response.

old tweets