It’s not rocket science: Why Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover could be bad for privacy

While Musk’s drawn-out pursuit of Twitter has come to an end, for him at least, the next chapter of Twitter’s history and its hundreds of millions of users is just beginning.

But cybersecurity experts fear that Musk’s open source vision for Twitter could make the platform more susceptible to attackers.

Moles says that if done properly, Musk’s plan to wage war on so-called spam bots, which have been used to spread malware and propagate political ideologies, could generate “new techniques that improve the detection and identification of spam emails, spam posts and other malicious intrusion attempts,” he added. “It may well be a boon to security practitioners everywhere.”

Professor Eerke Boiten, head of the school of computer science and informatics at De Montfort University in the U.K., warned that open sourcing Twitter’s algorithm could lead to malicious actors “gaming” the algorithm, which could see people treated differently based on their personal characteristics.

“Think, for example, of external manipulation of the targeted advertising aspects of Twitter, which is an area of concern for privacy even before it gets gamed,” said Boiten. “It would then also accelerate the arms race of new ways of gaming and finding countermeasures.”

Musk’s short statement left much to the imagination. He did not say what his plans were for “authenticating all humans.” Some read it as a plan to extend Twitter’s existing user verification system, or planning to introduce a real-name policy that would require users to provide documented evidence of their legal name. The digital rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, voiced concerns that real-name policies have on the human rights value of pseudonymous speech, and that Musk may have not considered the ramifications that a lack of anonymity can have on certain groups of people.

Boiten, too, believes Musk’s pseudonymity crackdown would be the most concerning aspect of Musk’s takeover. “Anonymity is in many contexts a prerequisite for privacy. Once Twitter is known to have authenticated its users, oppressive governments can demand the authenticating information from them endangering a lot of current subversive use in such countries,” he said. “I wonder how many anonymous Twitter accounts are currently run by Tesla employees — Elon Musk plays scrupulously by his own rules — so potential Tesla whistleblowers or unionizers wouldn’t be safe to get themselves authenticated on Twitter.”

For now, Musk’s takeover bid for Twitter remains subject to shareholder and regulatory approval.

News Wire

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