Twitter has many calling for a change in the way accounts are identified and to determine which ones are more legitimate than others. Jane Manchun Wong, an engineer, has now dug up a Twitter label that puts a mark on accounts with a verified phone number. Another test feature has also been noted, which will show the number of tweets viewed. Some users already have access to it for their own tweets under the “analytics” label. However, she said, it’s not yet clear whether this feature will be visible only to the author or to everyone.
Twitter also allows people to link the same phone number to ten different accounts, and developers can flag automated accounts to let people know that it’s not a person behind each post. Blue ticks are already required to have a verified phone number or email address.
When then-CEO Jack Dorsey talked about plans to allow verification for everyone, he mentioned that people had to confirm facts about themselves, which could be similar to how services like Airbnb and Tinder use phone numbers in the account verification process.
However, if users would link phone numbers to their accounts and display status, there are problems with data protection. So on Aug. 5, Twitter announced details of an incident that allowed an attacker to discover 5.4 million account names linked to certain phone numbers and email addresses.
According to the company’s own statement, the privacy flaw was made in a June 2021 update, wasn’t reported to Twitter until January, and Twitter didn’t know about the theft of information until July, when media reports surfaced that someone was trying to sell the database.
Another Bloomberg report noted that some contractors used Twitter tools to spy on celebrity accounts, and earlier this month a former employee was convicted on espionage charges after he used his post to “access the email addresses, phone numbers, and birth dates of users who were critical of the Saudi government”.
Twitter agreed to a $150 million settlement in May for the misuse of phone numbers and email addresses collected for two-factor authentication in ad targeting. This shows just how vulnerable data can be. With the midterm elections just around the corner, you need to make sure the information posted on social media comes from real people. Phone number tagging could play a role in assessing the trustworthiness of an account, but it remains to be seen whether Twitter will be able to implement it widely.