Twitter says some business users had their private data exposed – TechCrunch

Flip the “days since the last Twitter security incident” back to zero.

Twitter said Tuesday that it has emailed its business customers, such as those who advertise on the site, to warn that their information may have been compromised in a security lapse.

The social network giant said that business users’ billing information was inadvertently stored in the browser’s cache, and it was “possible” that others, such as those who share computers, could have accessed it.

That data includes the business users’ email addresses, phone numbers and the last four-digits of their credit card number associated with the account.

Twitter told users that it first became aware of the problem on May 20, a month after Twitter disclosed a similar bug that improperly stored Twitter user data, such as direct messages, in Firefox’s browser cache.

BBC News was first to report the news.

Twitter spokesperson Laura Pacas confirmed the incident to TechCrunch, but declined to disclose the number of people affected.

“We became aware of an incident where if you viewed your billing information on ads.twitter.com or analytics.twitter.com the billing information may have been stored in the browser’s cache,” the spokesperson said. “As soon as we discovered this was happening, we resolved the issue and communicated to potentially impacted clients to make sure they were aware and informed on how to protect themselves moving forward.”

It’s the latest security incident in recent years.

Last year alone, Twitter closed a bug that allowed a researcher to discover phone numbers associated with millions of Twitter accounts; admitted it gave account location data to one of its partners, even if the user had opted-out of having their data shared; and inadvertently gave its ad partners more data than it should have. Twitter last year also said it used phone numbers provided by users for two-factor authentication for serving targeted ads.

In 2018, Twitter admitted it stored user passwords in plaintext, and warned its millions of users to reset their passwords.



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Twitter hides Trump tweet threatening protesters with ‘serious force’ – TechCrunch

Twitter took its latest action on content from President Trump Tuesday, again hiding a threat of state violence behind a warning label and appending it with a notice.

Trump’s latest offending tweet declared “There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!” The tweet follows a clash between protesters and law enforcement Monday night in Lafayette Square near the White House.

Twitter says the tweet violated its rules prohibiting threats of harm against groups of people, a form of “abusive behavior” on the social network. The company said that it will allow the tweet to remain up, though has restricted the ability of users to interact with it, including likes, replies and retweets without comment.

On Monday, Twitter declined to act on a different tweet from the president that made false claims about mail-in voting and the “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION.” That tweet was not specific enough to cross the line for breaking platform rules around election integrity — a policy we’ll certainly be hearing more about.

In recent weeks, the president has frequently derided the city of Seattle for allowing protesters to create a police-free area, returning to the topic to stoke fear and anger within his political base. After police abandoned a station in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Seattle demonstrators moved into the area declaring it an “autonomous zone.” The autonomous zone — and the president’s latest threat — grew out of national civil rights protests against police brutality and racist violence after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd late last month.

Today’s tweet is the latest in what may become many examples of Twitter enforcing its platform rules against the president. In the past, the company rarely acted to enforce its policies on tweets from high-profile U.S. politicians, Trump included.

Over the last month, Twitter shifted to a much more active approach to its moderation responsibilities for political figures. In late May, Twitter ignited a political firestorm when it flagged two of the president’s tweets making false claims about vote-by-mail systems in California, leading to a retaliatory executive order from Trump days later. In the early days of the George Floyd protests, the company hid another tweet from the president that threatened lethal violence against protesters.



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Affirming the position of tech advocates, Supreme Court overturns Trump’s termination of DACA – TechCrunch

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that President Donald Trump’s administration unlawfully ended the federal policy providing temporary legal status for immigrants who came to the country as children.

The decision, issued Thursday, called the termination of the Obama-era policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “arbitrary and capricious.” As a result of its ruling, nearly 640,000 people living in the United States are now temporarily protected from deportation.

While a blow to the Trump Administration, the ruling is sure to be hailed nearly unanimously by the tech industry and its leaders, who had come out strongly in favor of the policy in the days leading up to its termination by the current president and his advisors.

At the beginning of 2018, many of tech’s most prominent executives, including the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google, joined more than 100 American business leaders in signing an open letter asking Congress to take action on the DACA program before it expired in March.

Tim Cook, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Sundar Pichai made a full-throated defense of the policy and pleaded with Congress to pass legislation ensuring that “Dreamers,” or undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and were granted approval by the program, can continue to live and work in the country without risk of deportation.

At the time, those executives said the decision to end the program could potentially cost the U.S. economy as much as $215 billion.

In a 2017 tweet, Tim Cook noted that Apple employed roughly 250 “Dreamers.”

The list of tech executives who came out in support of the DACA initiative is long. It included: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Brad Smith, the president and chief legal officer of Microsoft; Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman; and CEOs or other leading executives of AT&T, Dropbox, Upwork, Cisco Systems, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Intel, Warby Parker, Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Box, Twitter, PayPal, Code.org, Lyft, Etsy, AdRoll, eBay, StitchCrew, SurveyMonkey, DoorDash and Verizon (the parent company of Verizon Media Group, which owns TechCrunch).

At the heart of the court’s ruling is the majority view that Department of Homeland Security officials didn’t provide a strong enough reason to terminate the program in September 2017. Now, the issue of immigration status gets punted back to the White House and Congress to address.

As the Boston Globe noted in a recent article, the majority decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts did not determine whether the Obama-era policy or its revocation were correct, just that the DHS didn’t make a strong enough case to end the policy.

“We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Roberts wrote. 

While the ruling from the Supreme Court is some good news for the population of “Dreamers,” the question of their citizenship status in the country is far from settled. The U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has basically consisted of freezing as much of the nation’s immigration apparatus as possible.

An executive order in late April froze the green card process for would-be immigrants, and the administration was rumored to be considering a ban on temporary workers under H1-B visas as well.

The president has, indeed, ramped up the crackdown with strict border control policies and other measures to curb both legal and illegal immigration. 

More than 800,000 people joined the workforce as a result of the 2012 program crafted by the Obama administration. DACA allows anyone under 30 to apply for protection from deportation or legal action on their immigration cases if they were younger than 16 when they were brought to the U.S., had not committed a crime and were either working or in school.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the President tweeted “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”

 

 



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Somehow, Twitter does not have a team dedicated to accessibility – TechCrunch

Twitter does not have a team dedicated to accessibility, the company confirmed after a developer alluded to the fact. It’s a baffling omission for a company that employs some 4,000 people and a CEO who is often heard talking about doing the right thing.

This is not to say that Twitter is a wasteland for accessibility features, though like any major platform it has a lot of room for improvement. But features that make a site easier for everyone to navigate — not just people who use screen readers or captions — require more than part-time input from concerned employees.

That Twitter has no accessibility team was brought to broader attention in a tweet from Andrew Hayward, a Twitter developer who has himself done a lot of work on features for people with disabilities.

When people criticized Twitter’s new audio tweet feature for not having any kind of captioning, the official Twitter Support account said that it was an “early version of this feature” and that the company would be “exploring” ways to make it accessible, which didn’t help.

Hayward chimed in to say that he and the other “volunteers behind accessibility at Twitter” were “frustrated and disappointed” at the lack of consideration for people with disabilities, prompting astonishment that there is no dedicated team. He clarified that they are paid employees (not outright volunteers) but that “the work we do is notionally on top of our regular roles.” So the work he and everyone else has done has essentially been in their spare time.

A full time accessibility team may feel like a luxury at smaller companies, but Twitter can hardly claim to be small, new, or unaware of the importance of these features. So it’s difficult to understand why it would have no team — even a handful of people — whose sole responsibility they are.

I asked Twitter to confirm that the company has no dedicated accessibility team. In lieu of comment, the company offered a link to this trio of tweets: A mea culpa, a quick fix for a basic accessibility issue, and the assurance that Twitter is “looking at how we can build a dedicated group to focus on accessibility, tooling, and advocacy across all products.”

In other words, no: There’s no team, and only the very beginnings of a plan to build one. We’ll follow up with Twitter soon to see how that’s going.



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Trump shared a deceptive video blaming ‘fake news.’ Twitter just labeled it as fake – TechCrunch

The same day that Facebook removed a set of Trump campaign ads for violating the company’s rules against hate symbols, the president continued to push the envelope with his social media presence. On Thursday night, Trump shared a crudely edited video of two children with a fake CNN chyron reading “Terrified todler [sic] runs from racist baby.” Ironically, the video goes on to declare “America is not the problem, fake news is.”

The video, which had 7.9 million views at the time of writing, quickly earned Twitter’s “manipulated media” warning label, indicating just under the tweet itself that the content is not what it seems. Clicking through the warning label leads to a page fact-checking the tweet, including links to the original CNN share of the video of the two kids with the framing “These two toddlers are showing us what real-life besties look like.”

The altered video tags @carpedonktum in the lower right-hand corner, signaling that it was made by the infamous meme-making Trump fan whom uses that pseudonym. Carpe Donktum, a.k.a. Logan Cook, attended the White House’s social media summit, a largely anecdotal exercise in airing unsubstantiated complaints of social media’s anti-conservative bias last year.

Trump has shared viral pro-Trump videos originating with Cook before, including a clip showing Joe Biden sneaking up behind himself and giving his own shoulders a squeeze. Cook, who runs a site called Meme World, was suspended from Twitter for a short period of time last year in the fallout from a video by a Meme World contributor depicting Trump murdering his critics in the media.



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Twitter rolls out audio tweets – TechCrunch

Twitter tries to make audio tweets a thing, the U.K. backtracks on its contact-tracing app and Apple’s App Store revenue share is at the center of a new controversy.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for June 18, 2020.

1. Twitter begins rolling out audio tweets on iOS

Twitter is rolling out audio tweets, which do exactly what you’d expect — allow users to share thoughts in audio form. The feature will only be available to some iOS users for now, though the company says all iOS users should have access “in the coming weeks.” (No word on an Android or web rollout yet.)

This feature potentially allows for much longer thoughts than a 280-character tweet. Individual audio clips will be limited to 140 seconds, but if you exceed the limit, a new tweet will be threaded beneath the original.

2. UK gives up on centralized coronavirus contacts-tracing app — switches to testing model backed by Apple and Google

The U.K.’s move to abandon the centralized approach and adopt a decentralized model is hardly surprising, but the time it’s taken the government to arrive at the obvious conclusion does raise some major questions over its competence at handling technology projects.

3. Apple doubles down on its right to profit from other businesses

Apple this week is getting publicly dragged for digging in its heels over its right to take a cut of subscription-based transactions that flow through its App Store. This is not a new complaint, but one that came to a head this week over Apple’s decision to reject app updates from Basecamp’s newly launched subscription-based email app called Hey.

4. Payfone raises $100M for its mobile phone-based digital verification and ID platform

Payfone has built a platform to identify and verify people using data (but not personal data) gleaned from your mobile phone. CEO Rodger Desai said the plan for the funding is to build more machine learning into the company’s algorithms, expand to 35 more geographies and to make strategic acquisitions to expand its technology stack.

5. Superhuman’s Rahul Vohra says recession is the ‘perfect time’ to be aggressive for well-capitalized startups

We had an extensive conversation with Vohra as part of Extra Crunch Live, also covering why the email app still has more than 275,000 people on its wait list. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Stockwell, the AI-vending machine startup formerly known as Bodega, is shutting down July 1

Founded in 2017 by ex-Googlers, the AI vending machine startup formerly known as Bodega first raised blood pressures — people hated how it was referenced and poorly “disrupted” mom-and-pop shops in one fell swoop — and then raised a lot of money. But ultimately, it was no match for COVID-19 and how it reshaped our lifestyles.

7. Apply for the Startup Battlefield

With TechCrunch Disrupt going virtual, this is your chance to get featured in front of our largest audience ever. The post says you’ve only got 72 hours left, but the clock has been ticking since then — the deadline is 11:59pm Pacific tomorrow, June 19. So get on it!

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

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Twitter begins rolling out audio tweets on iOS – TechCrunch

Twitter is rolling out to its platform a new type of tweet — audio tweets — allowing users to share thoughts in audio form inside their feeds. The feature will only be available to some iOS users for now, though the company says all iOS users should have access “in the coming weeks.” No word on an Android or web rollout yet.

For users with access to the new feature, the process is pretty straightforward. Users can write a new tweet as they normally might, but now, alongside options to attach a photo or video, there’s a new button where users can record a quick audio message. Twitter shared the full workflow in a tweet from the company’s official account.

“Over the years, photos, videos, gifs, and extra characters have allowed you to add your own flair and personality to your conversations,” a blog post from Twitter announcing the feature reads. “But sometimes 280 characters aren’t enough and some conversational nuances are lost in translation. So starting today, we’re testing a new feature that will add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter – your very own voice.”

Twitter’s brevity has always been a ceiling that the social network has seemed to push up against with new products. In 2017, the company announced it was expanding the limits on tweets from 140 to 280 characters. This feature potentially allows for much longer thoughts to be shared on the service, limiting audio clips to 140 seconds. For users chatting away when the limit is reached, instead of being cut off, a new tweet will be threaded beneath the original, allowing the thoughts to continue pouring out.

The limit is still an interesting one, indicating that Twitter isn’t racing to turn into a podcast platform, but is instead hoping this feature can enable a new type of communication that fits into the existing conversation flows.

One thing that’s certainly an open question is how audio tweets will add to Twitter’s abuse problem. Twitter has plenty of challenges when it comes to flagging harassment among text-only tweets, which are much easier to auto-flag with machine learning tools. Decoding abuse in audio snippets is a much taller order for these systems. Furthermore, scrubbing through content that’s been reported manually is going to be more time-consuming for content moderators.

Audio has been a rolling trend in social networking. Over the past couple of years, podcasts have become a hotter space with companies like Spotify investing heavily in startups and content acquisition. Recently, investors in Silicon Valley raced to fund Clubhouse, an audio-based social network that has gathered a lot of attention over the past several months.



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T-Mobile hit by phone calling, text message outage – TechCrunch

T-Mobile appears to be having problems.

Customers are reporting that they can’t make or receive phone calls, although data appears to be unaffected. Some customers say that text messaging is also affected.

DownDetector, which collects outage reports from users, indicates that a major outage is underway. It’s not clear how widespread the issue is, but at the time of writing T-Mobile was trending across the United States on Twitter.

The outage appears to have started around 9-10am PT (12-1pm ET) on Monday.

DownDetector reporting outages across the U.S.

In our own tests in New York and Seattle, we found that making calls from a T-Mobile phone would fail almost immediately after placing the call. We also found that the cell service on our phones was intermittent, with bars occasionally dropping to zero or losing access to high-speed data.

In April, Sprint and T-Mobile completed its merger, valued at $26 billion, making the combined cell network the third largest carrier in the United States behind AT&T and Verizon.

A spokesperson for T-Mobile also did not immediately comment on the outage, but T-Mobile’s technology chief Neville Ray tweeted:

Others have reported issues on other networks. When reached, spokespeople for AT&T and Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) said their networks were operating normally. Sprint has not yet responded to a request for comment.

There is no evidence that the outage was caused by a cyberattack. Matthew Prince, chief executive at Cloudflare, a global content delivery network, said in a tweet that the company saw no spikes in internet traffic during the outage.

One wire report said Level 3, a major fiber network backbone that cell networks rely on for routing calls and messages, was experiencing an outage, which may have explained the network outages. But a spokesperson for CenturyLink, which owns Level 3, said that there was no current outage on its network.

Widespread cell networks outages are rare but do happen. In 2017, CenturyLink had a network failure that affected all major U.S. carriers and 911 emergency services that rely on the fiber network to route calls. In some U.S. counties, officials sent out emergency alerts to cell phone users to warn that 911 services had been disrupted.

Updated to note that carrier-dependent text messaging also appears to be affected; with AT&T and Verizon responses; with an update from T-Mobile’s chief executive; and with a statement from CenturyLink. An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated Neville Ray’s job title.



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Android 11 beta, Snapchat’s makeover, Apple’s WWDC20 plans – TechCrunch

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending three hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week, we’re looking at the mobile news from the events that didn’t happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the launch of Android 11 beta, which would have normally arrived during Google I/O, along with all the new Android developer tools. Snap also held its partner summit this week, where it announced a number of new Snapchat features, new partner relationships, and its plans for its AR ecosystem.

Not to be left out, Apple stole a little attention this week with its reveal of the WWDC20 schedule. Like many others, Apple’s conference is going virtual for the first time. It’s even redesigning its forums to aid with Apple engineer-developer interactions.

This week in app trends, we examine data from new reports on COVID’s impact on home improvement apps and hypercasual gaming.

Headlines

Android 11 beta launches along with new developer tools

After a series of delays and the cancellation of Google I/O, the Android 11 beta finally launched this week. This next major version of the Android OS is focused around three themes, says Google: People, Controls and Privacy.

On the People side, Android 11 gives conversation notifications a dedicated section at the top of the shade, offers a Bubbles API for messaging apps, improves Voice Access, adds new emoji and more. New consolidated keyboard suggestions allow Autofill apps and Input Method Editors (e.g., password managers and third-party keyboards), to now securely offer context-specific entries in the suggestion strip.

 

New device controls make it easier for users to access and control connected/smart home devices with a long press of the power button or access payment options. New media controls in an upcoming beta release will make it easier to switch the output device for audio or video content.

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It’s a test last year for quote tweets] – TechCrunch

Update. Twitter says this is related to a test but for emoji reactions to quote Tweets, and it came from a test last year even. The test is a sign of one more step to adding more reactions for users in the public timeline, but not quite the reactions we hoped they would be. (Original story follows below.)

When it comes to Twitter tweaks, the focus in the last several months seems to have been more on working on ways to make its platform less prone to being abused by people who use it to spread false and misleading information and harassment, and generally weaponise it for aims that are ultimately harmful. But a recent test points to how the company is also working on other ways of improving interactions and engagement.

Twitter appears to be currently testing reactions in Tweets, which would expand the hearts you already have on there to a range of other options. In the test, first uncovered by social app sleuth Jane Manchun Wong, Twitter is testing letting users respond with an emoji of their choice (similar to the pop-up it has for emojis when you compose a Tweet today); or a few pre-selected ones, including “100” (for agreement), a red circle with a line through it (for disagreement), a heart, a crying with laughter emoji, a shocked face and a pair of pressed palms (for please, yes, let it be so, etc.).

In the test, Twitter also includes Fleets as a reaction in addition to these instant responses, alongside existing Retweets and Retweets with comment. (Fleets are Twitter’s version of Stories and so far are only live in Brazil, Italy and, most recently, India.)

We reached out to Twitter for comment on this hours ago. We will update when and if they respond.

Reactions in Tweets should not come as too much of a surprise. In January, Twitter started to lay the groundwork by adding in reactions to Direct Messages. Based on the reactions you typically see in Apple’s iMessages, however, they’re different from the reactions appearing in this latest test. (They include thumbs up and down, a flame, a heart and laughing/crying/shocked faces.)

On top of that, Twitter itself has been testing the waters for multiple-emoji reactions for no less than five years already — which, even for a company that perhaps hasn’t been quick enough to respond to requests for changes, is a long time in tech. Maybe there’s still hope for that edit button, after all.

Offering a choice of quick-response reactions for users would (finally) bring Twitter in line with other social media platforms, specifically Facebook but also others like LinkedIn, with the expanded range of reactions giving users a way of responding quickly but with a little more nuance thrown in. Engagement is king these days, so something that can bring out more clicks but not at the expense of festering more abuse seems like a positive.

Twitter’s had kind of a problematic history with its reactions. (I mean, it has a problematic history full stop, but let’s put that to one side for now…)

Some superfans never really forgave Twitter for dropping “stars” in favour of “hearts.” One big complaint: it co-opted quick acknowledgement and effectively turned it into heart-felt endorsement.

I always thought that replacing a star with a heart was Twitter’s attempt to put more positivity into the platform. Yes, there are people who argue that hearts are equally used for acknowledgement as for actual positive responses, but that sort of ham-fisted response probably sums up exactly why Twitter’s hammer of attention precisely falls the wrong way so often.

We’ll update this post as we learn more. 🙂



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