Twitter boss insists user privacy is still priority

Twitter boss defensive over co-operation with authorities

Dick Costolo insists privacy is important, despite handing over one user's tweets to authorities

The CEO of Twitter “strongly believe[s]” in the importance of its users' privacy, despite a recent case in which the site handed over a user's tweets to authorities.

Speaking at the annual Online News Association conference in San Francisco, Dick Costolo emphasised that Twitter should protect its users from legal challenges.

"We strongly believe it's important for us to defend our users' right to protest the forced publication of their private information," he said.

He said the 140-million strong service was put “between a rock and a hard place” in the case of Malcolm Harris, an Occupy New York protester whose tweets were turned over to authorities during an investigation of his allegedly disorderly conduct during a demonstration in October 2011. Twitter had argued that its users retain their rights to their tweets, but last week was forced to hand over those of Harris, albeit sealed.

API changes

Costolo also used the conference to defend Twitter’s controversial API changes, which include limiting support for new apps using its API to 100,000 users. The changes were dismissed as having "zero credibility" by Instapaper creator Marco Arment.

Costolo said Twitter was investing money on reducing fake accounts and improving "the Twitter experience", but that third-party apps gave users a choice of Twitter interfaces without adding "accretive value".

"I don’t mean to be flippant, but there’s a little bit of 'I didn’t get my homework done because Twitter changed their API,'" said Costolo.

Costolo also announced upcoming improvements to Twitter, including the ability for users to download their entire Twitter history, and interactive Tweet boxes that host additional content such as real-time sports results. "We want to migrate to a world in which the 140 characters can serve as a caption for additional functionality," he said.

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