Posted September 11, 2009 10:18 am by with 10 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

scaredI know it may appear I go looking for trouble, but I promise you I just like to share with you my concerns. In the case of Twitter’s update to its Terms of Service, I started thinking about what the changes could mean to us users.

I’m a huge fan of Twitter, and very much rely on the service for my micro-communications, so I hope none of these scenarios ever materialize.

1. Ownership of Tweets

While Twitter’s new Terms state that you maintain full ownership of your Tweets, it provides no guarantee that you can get access to, or download, such content.

We reserve the right at all times (but not [sic] will not have an obligation) to remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services and to terminate users or reclaim usernames.

Twitter further states:

Twitter reserves the right to immediately terminate your account without further notice in the event that, in its judgment, you violate these Rules or the Terms of Service.

Unlikely but Possible Scenario:

Make one mistake and, without notice or opportunity to rectify, Twitter can delete your account and all the Tweets that you supposedly own.

2. Advertising

Twitter’s new terms include the following language:

In consideration for Twitter granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Twitter and its third party providers and partners may place such advertising on the Services or in connection with the display of Content or information from the Services whether submitted by you or others.

Unlikely but Possible Scenario:

Twitter could start embedding links in your actual Tweets or start using inline contextual ads–those double-underlined links that open ads, not web pages–all without your permission.

3. APIs

You’re giving Twitter pretty broad usage rights to distribute your Tweets:

You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals who partner with Twitter for the syndication, broadcast, distribution or publication of such Content on other media and services, subject to our terms and conditions for such Content use.

Unlikely but Possible Scenario:

What if Twitter started selling your Tweets to analytics or research companies? The company is sitting on a mountain of data and if the advertising model fails, Twitter could make a healthy bottom line by selling that data.

4. Private Data

I’m not sure if this is new, but Twitter has every right to read your direct messages:

We also reserve the right to access, read, preserve, and disclose any information as we reasonably believe is necessary to (i) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request, (ii) enforce the Terms, including investigation of potential violations hereof, (iii) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, (iv) respond to user support requests, or (v) protect the rights, property or safety of Twitter, its users and the public.

Unlikely but Possible Scenario:

Twitter becomes concerned that you’re using its service to organize a protest about its new Terms. It takes a look at your Direct Messages and concludes that you are a threat to the safety of other users. It annihilates your account!

  • gary golembroski

    Okay, now they have all the legal stuff covered, how about making some money!

  • So… if I, as a photographer, post a photo that is © protected, then twitter according to the new TOS allowed to use and sell it for advertising?

  • Dean

    Twitter has right to regulate and monetize the service as they see fit (after all this isn’t a charity they’re running) If, however, they overstep the boundaries that its user’s hold dear, they will lose them. Simply put, each side will keep the other side honest.

    Frankly, they better figure out a way to monetize the solution soon or we’ll be lamenting the loss of the solution altogether.

    As a side note, I am continually amazed at how bugged out we get with online services’ ToS (free online services, no less) yet willingly let grocery stores collect and sell info every transaction we make . Think about that next time you buy a pack of smokes and a pound of bacon 😉

  • Kyle
  • I think you are worrying too much. It is like there is crime in my city. But generally if I don’t go looking for it, it won’t find me. The reality is regardless of what TOS says there will be ads, in fact I am surprised twitter doesn’t just embed, google affiliate network ads beneath any links that apply.. all our info is packaged and sold.

  • I was getting emails all weekend about the new terms. Thanks for putting it all together on what I need to know.

  • I don’t think you should worry too much about #3. IT’s because of #3 that, someday, you’ll be able to stream your tweetfeeds to your Wii or Xbox. And isn’t most of that “mountain of data” already available, or at least accessible, for free? Why would a company pay for that?

  • Pingback: Advisign – Recht und Webdesign » Blog Archiv » Neue Twitter-AGB: Medienkompetenz, die schon meine Oma kannte()

  • Regarding #3, after reading in an earlier version of the Twitter API Documentation about a “Data Mining” interface, I assumed that was the real money-producing rationale for twitter: to allow organizations to identify customers by searching through their past tweets. There’s still some reference to data mining in the current API (see ) but, now it seems to me that the “Data Mining” interface is more a way for organizations to tap into the real-time Twitter stream and form their own databases. But I could be wrong.

    Does Twitter itself keep a database of all tweets since the service started? Well, they say you can only search about 1 1/2 weeks back: . But if you use the web interface to look at , and keep clicking “more”, you can read @twitter’s tweets at least as far back as June 2008, which is more than a year ago.

    So I’d say Twitter is sitting on top of a gold mine of all the tweets ever tweeted, and is looking for ways to sell convenient access to those tweets for a price.

  • And indeed they do. It was right there in front of me, and I missed it. At the 2nd link I gave above ( ), these words appear:

    “Twitter still maintains a database of all the tweets sent by a user.”

    So for now, everything you’ve ever tweeted is there in Twitter’s files. Any estimates as to the size of that database and the annual cost to maintain it? I would think that Twitter was betting on being able to recover that cost by selling convenient access to all of it for a price.

    Not that that’s a completely new idea. When Google acquired the Usenet archives, they established a similar resource. I can easily find Usenet posts that I made in 1994 – that’s 15 years ago.