Is Twitter’s Cookie Jar Communal?

Caroline Hendrix, Senior Writer

As we begin to spend more and more of our lives in a digital world, it’s been debated whether we are the users of the platforms we engage with or if we are merely being used for our data. In these times, it’s not guaranteed that the search engines and sites we access are taking the necessary steps to secure our privacy. 

Former Twitter employee and whistleblower Peiter Zatko has shed light on Twitter’s inability to keep our information private. According to the Washington Post, Zatko exposed Twitter’s use of software deemed “vulnerable” and below their standard for strong security measures. He also claimed that Twitter was too focused on increasing its user base. Zatko even claimed that Twitter had given government officials access to their ever growing user data by listing them as employees. Twitter continues to reject Zatko’s claims, sticking by the systems and softwares they have in place to combat spamming and maintaining user privacy. 

I should note that Twitter is not the only platform raising concern. According to Ad Age, Google has recently announced the postponement of banning the use of third-party cookies that will continue to jeopardize user privacy. Though they claim that they are using this time to allow other organizations, especially those within the ad tech industry, to prepare for other avenues to access consumer behavior, I do not see any other reasonable excuses for continuing to use third-party cookies, especially when other similar search engines like Apple’s Safari have implemented this change long ago. 

It is easy to look at this news and think, “I’ve got nothing to hide, so what does this have to do with me?” I’d argue there are two major reasons why you should care. The first is regarding the information that you do actually want to keep private online, even though you might not realize it. The New York Times explains that data leaks happen frequently which may expose passwords that may lead to financial and personal information getting into the wrong hands. They also suggest that while you might not explicitly tweet or post anything too telling on platforms like Twitter, hackers can put you and your personal information together like pieces to a puzzle using the websites you visit, the products you purchase, or even the people you follow.

The second reason to care about data security may be more obvious with Twitter. We live in a time where governmental organizations and politicians use platforms like Twitter as one of their main avenues of communication with the public. And just like your data that may be floating around the cloud (or wherever it’s stored), these entities and their data are also at risk of getting hacked. If their accounts are taken over or private information stolen, this could lead to social or political instability within national or even global communities. 

Both Zatko and Twitter’s comments following Zatko’s allegations are not completely proven, with Zatko being a previous employee who will not directly address why he no longer works at Twitter, and Twitter protecting its brand and backing its previous statements about user security. No matter what is true and what is not, it is still important to look critically at the websites and platforms you choose to engage with because we live in the digital age, where data that sits on laptop screens and tablets can have detrimental impacts on our lives if left unprotected. 

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