Twitter just disclosed the existence of the kind of privacy bug you’d normally expect to hear coming out of Facebook, which has been dogged repeatedly by this kind of thing over the years. Now it’s Twitter’s turn, with the social network acknowledging today an issue affecting the “Protect your Tweets” feature associated with some accounts. Turns out, some Android users who enabled that setting — which sets their tweets to “private” — actually had their tweets displayed publicly. For a shockingly long amount of time, almost five years.
There were some specific instances where this affected Twitter for Android users. For example, if the user made changes to other settings — like changing the email address associated with their account — it would seemingly disable the “Protect your Tweets” feature. Twitter disclosed to TechCrunch today that’s just one of what appears to have been multiple scenarios where Android users could have made changes to their account and it inadvertently switched the tweets from private to public, but the email address change is the only such instance Twitter has acknowledged so far.
This bug was fixed on January 14, but the problem dates all the way back to November 2014.
If this happened to you and you were paying close attention, today’s news may not come as a surprise. When your Twitter account is set to private, for example, you are notified with a request each time a new Twitter user wants to follow you. If your account had been switched to a public one, you wouldn’t get those notifications and the follows would happen automatically, so you would have known something was amiss by watching your follower count increase without your say-so.
Still, it’s definitely not a good look for the company that’s seemed to benefit from not being Facebook with each new privacy misstep at the much larger social networking behemoth. From a Twitter statement today: “We recognize and appreciate the trust you place in us and are committed to earning that trust every day. We’re very sorry this happened and we’re conducting a full review to help prevent this from happening again.”