Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Twitter employee hands over personal details of @Skype registrant to Skype – Privacy issue?

On twitter anyone can grab any famous person name or brand and there is not much policing going on regarding this. But issues were raised when Twitter has handed over the personal details of a brand registrant to his original brand company without alerting the original registrant or performing any kind of standard due diligence. This move has raised huge issues for the site.

Not so long after the launch of Twitter Stephanie Robesky of Atomico, the venture fund established by the former founders of Skype, registered @Skype while still at the company. She says in her blog post that she forgot about the move and came to know of the incident only when a Skype employee who has been handed over her contact details contacted her, who in in-turn got those name, email address and contact details from a Twitter employee. In an open letter to twitter she mentioned that
"This is a violation of my privacy and, quite honestly, probably a big violation of your privacy policies. It is unprofessional of your team to hand out users information regardless of circumstances and this is something that we never would have done at Skype – even if Obama himself couldn’t log in to an account that he says wasn’t even his!."

A response from a Twitter employee to Robesky accuses her of violating Twitter’s terms of service, despite clearly having revealed her personal information.
Sent: 07 April 2009 16:31
To: Stephanie Robesky
Subject: Re: Skype name account
Hi Stephanie,
I was informed by a representative of Skype that you had set-up
the account on their behalf but you were no longer an employee
and they did not have access to the account. In such situations we
do release the account to them.
Just curious why you didn’t turn over the keys to your employer before
you left the company? In which case, you’re violating our Terms of
Service by squatting on the user name.

The serious question now in this case is that whether twitter has the right to release the user information in special cases and how that determines that a company gets precedence over a Twitter name, as opposed to an individual.

I feel in case of such incidents the user has to be informed regarding the use of brand names and a notice can be issued to them to hand over the account details to its original brand company. Another solution can be they can delete the previous account and ask the original brand company to create another fresh account with their brand name. Both these can be good solutions for such privacy issues where in the privacy of the users can be maintained.

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