by Elon Musk bot baiting aside, Twitter has asked many people to change how it identifies accounts and what can be done to identify those that are more legitimate than others. Now engineer Jane Manchun Wong has unearthed a Twitter tag this would put a mark on accounts with a verified phone number. Her too Noted another test feature showing view counts for tweets, which some users already have access to for their own tweets under the “analytics” label. However, she said it was unclear whether this would be author-limited or viewable by all.
Linking an account to a number is a way of emphasizing that it was created with more effort than the simplest macro and could be used to filter out the tweets that appear most prominently or go through the different levels of filters quality. Twitter also allows people to have the same phone number associated with up to ten different accountswhile the developers can tag automated accounts to let people know that there is no human behind every message.
Verified blue check accounts are already required to have a verified phone number or email address attached. When then-CEO Jack Dorsey talked about plans to enable verification for everyone, he mentioned that people were fact-checking themselves, which might have been similar to how services like Airbnb and Tinder use phone numbers as part of their account verification processes.
However, encouraging users to link phone numbers to their accounts and view status means securing this data becomes an issue. On August 5, Twitter announced details of an incident that allowed an attacker to discover 5.4 million account names associated with particular phone numbers and email addresses. By the Society own accountthe privacy breach was introduced in a June 2021 update, was not reported to Twitter until januaryand Twitter was unaware the information had been stolen until July, when media reported that someone was trying to sell the database.
The 2020 hack that allowed attackers to tweet from Jack Dorsey and Joe Biden’s Bitcoin accounts came after the attackers used social engineering to use Twitter’s internal tools. Another report from Bloomberg noted that some contractors had used Twitter tools to spy on celebrity accountsand earlier this month, a former employee was convicted of espionage after using his location to “access the email addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth of users who were critical of the Saudi government”.
In May, Twitter has agreed to a $150 million settlement for improperly using phone numbers and email addresses collected for two-factor authentication in its ad targeting, showing how leaky data can be.
With the midterm elections approaching, there is pressure to ensure that information posted on social media comes from real people or at least someone who is actually in the country they claim. The phone number label could play a role in judging an account’s trustworthiness, but it’s unclear if or when Twitter might roll it out widely.