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Report: Snapchat Employees Breached Customers’ Private Data, Including Saved Snaps

Another Big Tech privacy folly.

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A Thursday report released by Motherboard detailed how employees of Snap, Inc., owner of popular social media application Snapchat, breached users’ privacy by accessing their private data.

“Two former employees said multiple Snap employees abused their access to Snapchat user data several years ago,” the report said. “Those sources, as well as an additional two former employees, a current employee, and a cache of internal company emails obtained by Motherboard, described internal tools that allowed Snap employees at the time to access user data, including in some cases location information, their own saved Snaps and personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses.”

Some employees reportedly accessed data via SnapLion, an internal tool originally built for the company to access personal when law enforcement asked for help via court orders or subpoenas.

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The news of the alleged privacy breach comes amid scrutiny of Silicon Valley tech giants, and questions about whether they can be trusted to protect the data of their users. In 2014, Snap was fined by the Federal Trade Commission for “failing to disclose that the company collected, stored, and transmitted geolocation data.”

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“Protecting privacy is paramount at Snap. We keep very little user data, and we have robust policies and controls to limit internal access to the data we do have. Unauthorized access of any kind is a clear violation of the company’s standards of business conduct and, if detected, results in immediate termination,” a Snap spokesperson told Motherboard in a statement.


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Twitter Launches Crowdsourced Fact-Checking System Called “Birdwatch” to Fight “Misinformation”

Who saw this coming?

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Twitter has rolled out a new feature to fight what they consider to be “misinformation.”

The new feature, released Monday, is called Birdwatch. In a post on the Twitter Blog, Vice President of Product Keith Coleman writes that Birdwatch will allow people to identify information in tweets that “they believe is misleading” and to write notes “that provide informative context.”

We believe this approach has the potential to respond quickly when misleading information spreads, adding context that people trust and find valuable,” Coleman said.

As of now Birdwatch is a standalone site, though Twitter claims they will eventually make notes posted to Birdwatch directly visible on certain tweets.

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VP of Product Coleman continues: “In this first phase of the pilot, notes will only be visible on a separate Birdwatch site. On this site, pilot participants can also rate the helpfulness of notes added by other contributors. These notes are being intentionally kept separate from Twitter for now, while we build Birdwatch and gain confidence that it produces context people find helpful and appropriate. Additionally, notes will not have an effect on the way people see Tweets or our system recommendations.”

The format of Birdwatch will supposedly combine elements of Wikipedia and Reddit’s moderation tools, according to NBC News. Birdwatch users will be able to flag tweets from a dropdown menu on Twitter itself, but discussion about the flagged tweets will only be able to take place on the Birdwatch site. Birdwatch will also implement a rating system that will allow users to upvote or downvote the notes of others.

This is the logical development of Twitter’s commitment to identify and suppress content they deem “false” or “dangerous.” Keep an eye out for more such features in the future.

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