Not long ago, I remember noticing that when I did a search on Twitter, I could only see tweets going back a couple of weeks. At times, this was frustrating, especially when I knew there was something posted a little while before that arbitrary cut-off that I wanted to retrieve again. This “aging and expiring” of content was the original intent of Twitter’s designers. In a way, it may have been a little bit comforting to know that whatever things you may have tweeted a year or so ago about your ex-spouse or even your favorite music artist, is long-lost in the dust of a trillion other tweets…
Not so fast!… I hate to break it to you, but probably without most of us realizing it, Twitter has made it extremely easy to do detailed searches back to the Big Tweet (the first tweet, ever). So, everything you’ve ever tweeted can now be retrieved… by anyone. Just think about it for a minute.
You can prove it to yourself by going to https://twitter.com/search-advanced and entering in a search on yourself. Once you’re on that page full of form fields, go to the “From account” and put in your Twitter handle. Then click Search at the bottom. The results page is an endless scrolling list of tweets that keeps refreshing if you try to go to the bottom… all the way to your first tweet.
The first tweet I posted from my account @streetsec, is this one on October 2, 2008…
If you find this a little creepy, in that anyone who wants to research your past can easily find things about you, the people you’ve had Twitter conversations with, the photos or videos you’ve tweeted, can do it very easily. Think about private detectives, stalkers or even the personnel department of the business you’re applying to in your next job. It’s all out there for them.
So, please spread the word, especially to people who are just signing up on Twitter as new users. There’s still hope for them to understand the implications of having everything they post searchable.
Have a look at your timeline (or anyone else’s) and post a note to me at @streetsec or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter for anything you see that looks like it could be regrettable, from a security or privacy point of view… Well, OK, maybe let’s not embarrass people too much by posting them publicly again and opening old wounds. But I like to gather these kinds of stories, and will use discretion when retelling them.
NOTE: You can get the link to an individual tweet by clicking on the text of a tweet, and then looking for a link called Details. You will then see the full URL of the tweet in your address bar, so you can send or post links directly to it.
The Streetwise Security Coach