The FTC has ordered Twitter to be more transparent with its security measures and processes. The small size of Twitter’s team, its massive number of users and security vulnerabilities have left the microblogging site open to a handful of attacks in the past year or so. For a web-based start-up, it’s just part of the hazing process. For the FTC, it’s another opportunity to regulate the actions of businesses on the web, in the name of consumer safety.
A release from the FTC on Thursday explained that Twitter will form an “independently audited information security program” as a result of the settlement, which must be assessed by a third party every other year, and that for 20 years it’s barred “from misleading consumers about the extent to which it maintains and protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information.”
MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all met their heyday, battling malware and the spammy byproducts of over-population. They’ve all become subject to legal authority on some level or another. MySpace and Facebook restructured their safety settings and recommendations, while YouTube recently won the battle against Viacom. Facebook is currently dealing with the rising amount of scrutiny around its consumer controls, and Twitter has become a means of legal verification of users whereabouts. Then there’s the Library of Congress thing.
But the issue here is whether or not the FTC was right to take a stand against Twitter in this way. From a moral standpoint, you’re left to your own opinion. From a legal perspective, the FTC apparently has no direct course of action for enforcing the regulations it’s imposed on Twitter.
I’m sure Twitter’s not going to disregard the FTC’s decision just to prove a point–I think transparency around security standings is a good business practice in our current climate, regulated or otherwise. But it is something for other businesses, especially start-ups, to heed. Navigating the privacy concerns of today’s consumers is an increasingly tricky task, and the FTC’s infringement on how online security is handled means more laws will soon be in place. It’s a heavy burden for start-ups, but a necessary one.