Posted September 25, 2009 9:48 am by with 1 comment

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twitter-logo1Twitter asks “What are you doing?” and people respond in 140 character max chunks of ‘wisdom’ ranging from helpful to inane. As the rest of the world gets used to what many technophiles have known for years they will have the opportunity shortly to not only know what someone is doing but where they are doing it as well.

While I am not sure if this marks a new beginning or the end of the world as we know it (you can start humming the REM song now) it certainly may be interesting at the very least. We hear from Gina Trapani at Smarterware from the Twitter Conference in LA that Twitter’s platform lead Ryan Sarver gave the group a rundown of some service details. By the way, it was supposed to rolled out at the conference but there have been delays so hang in there.

  • Twitter will soon be able to store location data–that is, latitude and longitude coordinates–on a per-tweet basis, and for your user profile.
  • Including location information in your tweets will be opt-in only. You will have to visit your Twitter account’s settings page on the web site to allow Twitter to store that data. It will not be enabled by default. Even if your Twitter client sends lat/log points along with your status update, if you didn’t explicitly opt into including that information, Twitter will drop it at the point of entry and it will not be stored or published.
  • Users won’t see any new features on the Twitter web site when geo launches except for the settings page where you opt in. Twitter is giving API developers a head start to display and transmit geo data in tweets in their apps first.

What is probably most interesting about this is Twitter’s cautionary approach to the data it will be collecting. They seemed to stress pretty heavily that the words subpoena and Twitter (or Twitter developer) need to stay as far apart as possible. To that end

Twitter will scrub geo-data stored in tweets more than 14 days old to avoid subpoenas about a user’s location. They will outright delete the location information from their database, not just anonymize it.

Twitter’s Sarver stressed that this scrubbing is not a permanent solution but apparently they have put some of their new hires to work and the word is that keeping the data only invites the potential of becoming a Law and Order episode in the future.

The heads up they give developers around this is interesting since they encourage just a general locale vs a street and time location reporting which can be done. It makes sense that Twitter would be a little nervous about developers overstepping their bounds and Twitter getting hauled into court even in an indirect fashion.

Remember that this will all be an opt-in feature and each user will need to manage their settings when it finally rolls out. So what’s your take? Are you interested in this type of Twunctionality (that’s Twitter functionality, which is admittedly lame but it is Friday)? Do you care where someone is doing something you didn’t find interesting in the first place?

  • I heard an opinion that Twitter will die in some years not being able to compete with usual blogs and social networks.