Think twice about sending that nude. Twitter’s not going to encrypt your DMs.

If Anthony Weiner’s fate wasn’t enough to dissuade you from sending nudes via direct message, how’s this: when it comes to your DMs, Twitter does not have your back.

Twitter has dropped a project that would have encrypted your direct messages, which Twitter users employ to send private messages to one another.

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 If you happen to be subpoenaed, your pictures could conceivably end up in a courtroom as evidence. It’s happened before when people have found evidence of their partners cheating on social media. 

But there are larger issues than being caught with your pants down connected with Twitter forgoing encrypted DMs, including protection from government snooping or malicious hackers. After revelations that the government had been monitoring tech companies without their knowledge or consent, Silicon Valley was not happy, and one of the resulting actions was supposed to be encrypted direct messages. It’s not clear how much this would have protected users, anyway. The National Security Agency has been known to either beat encryption or force companies to give backdoor access to data.

Twitter’s move prompted even more comment because the company built a strong reputation for resisting government mining efforts. “The most notable example,” “The Verge” said, “was its refusal to cooperate with PRISM, the controversial National Security Agency program that made it easy for the government to electronically pick up data ordered under court-approved requests.” It earned high praise in the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s “Encrypt the Web” report and positive ratings from the Online Trust Alliance. Does dropping the project without explanation signal capitulation? “The Verge” says that’s not likely.

Twitter declined to comment on why its latest encryption effort has stalled, but all signs point to its overloaded to-do list rather than an abandonment of its values. Twitter has been rethinking its messaging mechanism, evidenced by major changes just before its IPO last year, so it may be that there is just too much in flux to invest in encryption right now. Whatever the reason, direct-message encryption has dropped off the priority list indefinitely — and a source confirmed it will not be implemented this quarter or next.

 

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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