Security in the Age of Social Media

Posted on July 18, 2009 by Comments Off

A thought related to my previous one about the leaked Twitter docs, it could be interesting if a follow-up story was done about how the hacker got his hands on the confidential documents in the first place. 

Apparently he hacked into the Google Mail account of a senior Twitter executive using the Password Recovery question function.  This is the security measure that allows you to recover a forgotten password by responding to a question that supposedly only you have the answer to, such as “What is your mother’s maiden name”, “What is your favorite pet’s name”, and so on.  

An argument against keeping your documents in the Cloud? Or a wake-up call to have password recovery questions that are extremely hard to guess?

How easy is your password recovery question?

Confidentiality in the Age of Social Media

Posted on July 17, 2009 by Comments Off

Topic of the week in social media was TechCrunch’s decision to publish confidential internal documents from Twitter, sent to them by a hacker:

On Tuesday evening more than 300 confidential Twitter documents and screenshots landed in our inbox. We said we were going to post a handful of them only, and we’ve spent much of the last 36 hours talking directly to Twitter about the right way to go about doing that. We’ll have more to say on that process in a couple of days.

The documents include employment agreements, calendars of the founders, new employee interview schedules, phone logs and bills, alarm settings, a financial forecast, a pitch for a Twitter TV show, confidentiality agreements with companies such as AOL, Dell, Ericsson, and Nokia, a list of employee dietary restrictions, credit card numbers, Paypal and Gmail screen shots, and much more.

Some comments have been very critical of TechCrunch’s decision to publish the documents, in spite of them having apparently consulted with Twitter before publishing.  (I’m willing to bet NOT publishing was not an option on the table during those discussions.)

Here are two typical negative reactions from bloggers:

Daring Fireball wrote:

What you may ask, is the dilemma, since it is clear that any decent human being would simply refuse to have anything to do with something so lurid? Arrington’s dilemma is that he’s unsure how to clean the stains from his pants, incurred during his excitement at the opportunity to publish as much of this material as he can get away with.

He is a very sad excuse for a man.

Too Much Nick wrote:

I’ve never liked TechCrunch, but before now it was mostly personal preference or distaste. Now it’s major. IF YOU EVER, EVER, EVER READ OR LINK TO TECHCRUNCH, YOU ARE NOW SUPPORTING A SITE THAT UTTERLY DISRESPECTS ALL PRIVACY AND RULE OF LAW. THEY ARE SCUM.

If you want to vote for whether TechCrunch should have published the documents, here’s a quick Internet poll.

Interestingly, in a post this week on Marketing Magazine’s blog, M&C Saatchi Asia head Chris Jaques asked readers to tell him in confidence which agencies have secretly laid off staff recently, under the reasoning that agency management are lying when they say they have fired people for being “not good enough”:

I promise to keep your name and personal details completely confidential.

But I would like you to let me know approximately how many people have been made redundant from your agency in 2009?

Everyone needs to know the truth: the real facts, not the agency management’s PR-controlled bullshit.

Because agency management throughout the region are lying, and it’s the agency staff who are suffering. Management are telling the media that they have made no redundancies, so that they can preserve a false image of success and resilience.

Which means that they are happy for their staff to suffer for the sake of their own reputation. Which makes me screaming mad, for one critical and undeniable reason:

If agencies are denying that they have made any redundancies because of financial reasons – then those people who have been made redundant, must have been fired because they are not good enough. Which, in most cases, is simply not true. I’ve personally interviewed many, many talented people this year who have only lost their jobs because their bosses are losing money.

(I took offense at that “PR-controlled” bit, but hey he’s an advertising man.)

We always say that Transparency and Authenticity are the currency of the social media age, but where do you draw the line? Some would say TechCrunch’s decision to publish crossed the line, and since Chris Jaques’ mission is to uncover the truth, he did not break any ethical standards.

Twitter is not a news source, deal with it

Posted on June 18, 2009 by Comments Off

 

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Thanks to WE colleague Tac Anderson who pointed to this John Dvorak piece about how Twitter is fundamentally flawed as a news source. Dvorak listed seven flaws with Twitter as a provider of news, including incompleteness, inaccuracy, vulnerability to hoaxers, lack of analysis, skewed priorities, and so on. 

I agree with Dvorak’s views because they refute the oft-held position that Twitter is an emerging news source. Most culpable are the media pundits who breathlessly trumpet Twitter as some form of new journalism.  Most Twitter content about current events is biased, immediate, partial, opinionated.  Sometimes they are firsthand or on-location, especially at the onset of an occurrence.  Its content creators are not vested in ensuring the accuracy of facts and usually do not fact-check.  Their personal opinions matter most and they are not shy about leading with them.  In other words, Twitter is as far away from time-honored journalistic principles as you can get. 

When it comes to conventional journalism a dose of healthy skepticism and broader understanding of the writer’s context and slant is important, whether you’re reading the New York Times or the Straits Times. I doubt many intelligent consumers of reputable news sources regard every word as absolute truth.  Why should we expect the same of Twitter?

If taken for what it is—personal, in-the-moment impressions of an event that convey sense and color—Twitter has its place. 

There is an added bonus.

Due to the sheer number of personal opinions shared, sentiment measurement on Twitter is becoming a rising business nowadays. Twendz is a great tool in that regard. [Disclosure: Twendz was developed by my employer Waggener Edstrom.] I fully expect more such tools to be launched in the coming months.

After the coming wave of sentiment measurement tools such as Twendz abates, we will begin to see tools that predict future sentiment, or even outcomes, of events.  Twitter is a perfect incubator for experiments in the wisdom of crowds.  I can’t wait to see where this leads.

Singapore’s first Twitter Wedding, or Twedding

Posted on June 1, 2009 by Comments Off

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending my colleague Melvin Yuan’s wedding in Singapore.  This was billed as Singapore’s first twedding, and there was even an article written about it in the Straits Times, the country’s main paper. 

Go here to view the actual Twitter feed of the wedding.  The most recent tweets are about the coverage itself, but if you scroll down far enough you’ll see the realtime tweets during the wedding.

Other pics are here, care of Calvin Siew, another colleague.

What I like about Twitter: Brevity. Flexibility, not so much.

Posted on March 23, 2009 by Comments Off

I often get questions from folks about what’s the point of Twitter, often with a snigger about the inanity of broadcasting what you had for lunch or what movie you’re watching right this moment.  I must admit it took me a while to actually appreciate Twitter.

Twitter appeals to me personally because of the 140-character limit.  Perhaps because I am Asian and English is my second language, I’ve always lacked the patience to wade through long verbose emails or blog posts.  Tweets that contain links to noteworthy content are great, but so are tweets that encapsulate a single idea elegantly within the confines of 140 characters.  Under this enforced brevity, Twitter itself fulfils many functions.  It’s email (direct messages), blog, and discussion forum, all in digestible bites that allow numerous streams to be tracked. I can’t follow the RSS feeds of hundreds of blogs and still have a life, but with Twitter it’s a cinch.

However, there is a problem if you want to build up a steady following on Twitter but have very broad interests: you have to be focused in your subject matter. On Twellow, the “yellow pages” of Twitter, you’re only allowed to enter your Twitter account in 10 categories.  Commonly, any spread of discrete subject matter over three topics would be regarded as too broad.  I’ve seen people experiment with more than one Twitter account, but then you run into problems with software such as Tweetdeck, as each instance of the software only works with one account. Plus you can only run one instance at a time anyway.

Perhaps what would make Twitter even better would be allowing users to have different “personas”, so that, for example, you could have one Twitter persona for discussing social media, and another one for Asian food, all managed with the same email account.  Or you could have one persona for work, and one for family and friends.  For example, Facebook does customization well, with granular control that allows you to segment different parts of your profile for different friend lists.  Still, you can only have one Facebook newsfeed and it’s still either on or off. 

I wonder if this is an oft-requested feature on Twitter?

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