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January 24, 2013

How Your Private Tweets May Not Stay Private

by stevenwyer

online-reputation-management-twitterYou’ve done everything experts recommend to keep your Twitter feed private. You’ve protected your Tweets and you’re careful to only accept follow requests from people you’ve verified. You’re free to post anything you want, safe in the knowledge that no one outside of your small group of followers will ever see it.

Or will they?

Reputation Advocate recognizes that Twitter can provide a level of comfort for users who forget strangers, friends, and even employers might be watching. In fact, tweets might show up in search results years after they’re posted, staying out there to haunt posters for many years to come. Until recently, people have assumed these tweets would eventually have an expiration date, but the U.S. Library of Congress’ project to catalog tweets on a server for posterity has many realizing the lasting power of comments posted on the Internet.

Eventually, it’s expected that historical tweets may be available to the public, although currently the government has made it clear they have no easy way for them to be made available. So those tweets about how great your oatmeal tastes and how tough Mondays are could be viewed a hundred years from now.

The team at Reputation Advocate has confirmed that the U.S. Library of Congress is only cataloging public tweets, which means users who have set their profiles to private are safe…somewhat. Our caution, however, is in regard to retweets, a popular way Twitter users have of sharing information they find insightful, useful, or entertaining.

While protected tweets are also protected against being retweeted, anyone can easily retweet these posted items by copying and pasting. If that person attributes the tweet to a protected user, a once-private tweet has now been made public and is therefore subject to being captured by the U.S. Library of Congress.

Another caution comes with dashboard software, which has become a popular way for users to keep up with multiple social media accounts at once. Services like TweetDeck and HootSuite have functionality built in that may not protect these tweets the same way Twitter does.

There is good news, however. The Library of Congress is cataloging only the text posted on Twitter. Posted links and attached photos will not be a part of the collection, which keeps those college party photos from being viewed by future generations. Still, Reputation Management advises clients who are protective about their privacy to keep in mind with every tweet they post that they may be posting something that will be around for centuries.

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