Careful What You Tweet on Twitter

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-04-01 Print this article Print

title=Text Messaging Under the Microscope}

Regardless of what course the case against Hirsch runs, it could serve as a wake-up call to other text messaging service providers.

For example, could Twitter-a social network with a text message service front end that lets users provide 140-character updates to friends, acquaintances and even strangers-be called upon to divulge Twitter posts from its users? Yes, Malone said.

Biz Stone, co-founder and creative director of Twitter, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The case underscores the care users must take in leveraging collaborative technologies to communicate. Geoff Bock, an analyst who covers collaboration for the Gilbane Group, said text messages are likely viewed the same way as other forms of digital communication, such as e-mail.

"When something is communicated electronically, there are very few rights or privacy," said Bock, who is not an attorney, but who generally noted the glut of cases where e-mails were turned over to litigators for court cases. "As we explore this wonderful world electronically, we also have to beware that whatever we say is recorded. When you are called [by law] to produce something, it is incumbent on you to produce it."

Social networks thrive on quality, not quantity. Click here to read more.

Cases such as Hirsch's, Bock said, are why it's so vital for users to understand why they are collaborating and what they are collaborating about.

David Ferris, of Ferris Research, isn't ready to say Hirsch will have to cough up his records. Ferris, echoing Malone's comments, said that just because lawyers subpoena people, it doesn't always mean they'll get the records.

However, he said such a scare will make malicious users think twice about sending out viruses because they will be tracked electronically. "They've got to remember there is a growing trace behind them and they might get caught," Ferris said.

That said, Ferris approves of the text-messaging barrage at the Republican Convention assembly, characterizing it as a powerful "flash mob" to enable quick collaboration for a big happening.

Meanwhile, Malone said he expects the New York attorneys to get some of the text messaging content they asked for in their lawsuit, but not all of it. He is looking forward to further developments in the case, which could set the tone for future cases involving text messaging.


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