Tweetbeep Can See Through Twitter Privacy Protection

  • Comments: 5
  • Written on: November 2nd, 2008

Twitter LogoThe other day I was getting my teeth filled at the Dentist and my phone vibrated telling me my Dentist had just tweeted!

It seems like everyone is on Twitter these days. Some people use it for marketing, some people use it as a public diary, and some people elect to password protect their updates so only their friends can see them.

The people who enable Twitter’s password protection feature probably feel comfortable that their nosy parents, ex-boyfriend(s), or their boss at work won’t be able to read their less-than-public tweet thoughts.

The trouble is these tweets are anything but private.

A few weeks ago a colleague at a conference told me about a service called www.tweetbeep.com. This service sends you an email alert when a tweet is posted anywhere on Twitter that contains the words or phrase you specify. It works a lot like a Google Alert.

I signed up for a tweetbeep account and set some alerts on subjects I like to follow. In mere minutes tweets were gathered and emailed to me. Some of the people who posted the tweets seemed interesting, so I went to their Twitter page to follow them.

I was surprised to see that their Twitter page said their updates were protected and I had to submit a request to the user to follow them. I couldn’t see the updates, but somehow tweetbeep was able to?

I am not a programmer or anything, but I know that Twitter has an API, and I am pretty certain that tweetbeep used Twitter’s API to monitor tweets and aggregate them into emails to their subscribers.

That must mean there is a loophole in the Twitter API that allows programmers to read private Twitter time lines. If this is the case, it is only a matter of time before websites start popping up that will allow you to read a Twitter user’s private tweet time line.

Does anyone out there protect their updates on Twitter for privacy? Is there a service out there that allows people to see protected Twitter time lines already?

What do you think? Join the discussion...

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