In undercover interviews with Twitter staff, Project Veritas has alleged that hundreds of employees are tasked with searching for graphic user photos. This data is then stored – indefinitely.
For anyone who thinks the information they send over Twitter is somehow protected from third-party snooping, think again. In a series of interviews caught on hidden camera in early January, Clay Haynes, senior network security engineer, dispels those notions once and for all.
“I’ve seen way more penises than I’ve ever wanted to see in my life,” Haynes confides to an undercover journalist with Project Veritas.
When asked to elaborate, Haynes says the graphic material is found on “DMs (direct messages), tweets…”
“Lots of d*cks,” he emphasized.
Interestingly, it is not the work of a robot to automatically single out the offensive content, but rather large teams of humans devoted to the task. “There’s teams dedicated to it,” Haynes confirms. “I mean, we’re talking, we’re talking three or four… at least, three or four hundred people.”
“Yes, they’re paid to look at d*ck pics.”
According to the founder of Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, users have no way to protect themselves from Twitter violations of privacy.
“Twitter has pages and pages of rules and requirements, including its comprehensive terms of service that protects Twitter from you,” O’Keefe noted. “But you have nothing that protects you from Twitter.”
This boils down to the ultimate question: How much information does Twitter have, and what are they doing with it?
According to another Twitter employee, a direct messaging engineer introduced as Pranay Singh, quite a lot.
“All your sex messages and your, like, dick pics are on my server now… All your illegitimate wives and, like, all the girls you’ve been f*cking around with, they’re on my server now,” Singh boasted.
“I’m going to send it to your wife, she’s going to use it in your divorce,” he added, jokingly.
But as the axiom says, with every joke there is a hint of truth.
O’Keefe commented on this particularly jocular, cocky stance from many Twitter engineers, who “seemed to have a more cavalier attitude about user privacy. It is almost like the whole culture at Twitter is about abusing and laughing at users.”
Singh emphasized a terrible truth about all of the vast amounts of personal data that Twitter hoovers up on a daily basis: it never goes away. “Like, they are always on there,” Singh claims.
And this fits in with Twitter’s particular business model, which collects user information and sells it to businesses, advertisers, and other interested parties, it appears.
“Even after you send [the information], people are analyzing them, to see what you’re interested in, to see what you’re talking about, and they sell that data.” When asked to clarify what sort of information Twitter makes available, Singh said, “everything.”
Even direct messages are free game. As O’Keefe explained, “this is not your run-of-the-mill big data. This is personal and specific, and that has a high premium for advertisers.”
It is almost like the whole culture at Twitter is about abusing and laughing at users. – James O’Keefe, Project Veritas
Another Twitter engineer, Mihai Florea, who has been with the company for three years, admitted that selling data to advertisers is “how we make most of our money.”
Florea said that users are “paying for the right to use our website with your data basically… And it’s the same way with every free website.”
Twitter has rejected the claims put forward in the Project Veritas investigation.
“We do not proactively review DMs. Period,” a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed. “A limited number of employees have access to such information, for legitimate work purposes, and we enforce strict access protocols for those employees.”
It must be noted that the work of Project Veritas has not been without criticism for the methods it employs.
In 2010, O’Keefe was sentenced to three years’ probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $ 1,500 fine for entering then-Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-La.) office on false pretenses.
O’Keefe and three colleagues were arrested by federal authorities at Landrieu’s office on allegations of phone-tampering.
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