WikiLeaks' Twitter Database Idea Should Alarm You
The disclosure organization responsible for leaking emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman may be thinking of turning its attention from governments to social media users. WikiLeaks proposed tracking the personal information of verified Twitter users in an online database in a tweet published Friday by the WikiLeaks Task Force. The database would reportedly include highly-sensitive information on hundreds of thousands of Twitter users' finances, employment, and family relationships.
"We are thinking of making an online database with all 'verified' twitter accounts & their family/job/financial/housing relationships," a tweet posted Friday by the WikiLeaks Task Force, a verified Twitter account listed as an official support account for WikiLeaks, said.
In the wake of an outpouring of outrage over the proposal, the tweet has since been deleted and a statement diminishing the authorization of "other accounts" has been issued by WikiLeaks' primary Twitter account. "Media note:
@WikiLeaks is the only official account of WikiLeaks. No other accounts are authorized to make statements on @wikileaks behalf," WikiLeaks tweeted Saturday. However, the WikiLeaks Task Force account was still listed as an associated account in WikiLeaks Twitter biography.
According to the Washington Post, the WikiLeaks Task Force had initially claimed the collected information – a majority of which would be highly sensitive and personal in nature – would be used for an artificial intelligence program. For many Twitter users, however, the proposal read more like a threat to dox if not the hundreds of thousands of verified users, then at least those who have been critical of the disclosure organization.
If you subscribe to the idea the Twitter Verified account follows every verified Twitter user, then there are roughly 230,000 verified users on Twitter. A verified Twitter account is an account that has been authenticated by Twitter, meaning the social media network has confirmed the user behind the account is who they say they are. Although Twitter has recently expanded its verified accounts program, verified accounts generally belong to politicians, celebrities, reporters, television personalities, and high-profile figures.
The WikiLeaks Task Force later attempted to clarify that the information collected would be used "to develop a metric to understand influence networks based on proximity graphs" rather than maliciously reveal people's private information. "The idea is to look at the network of *relationships* that influence -- not to publish addresses," the organization said in a tweet to Kevin Collier, a security reporter for Vocativ.
Twitter told the Washington Post WikiLeaks would violate the social media network's policies if it followed through with its proposal to track and publicize verified users' personal information. "Posting another person's private and confidential information is a violation of the Twitter Rules," the social media network said in a statement, as reported by the Post.