Twitter platform lead Ryan Sarver shed more light on how geolocation in the microblogging service will work at the Twitter Conference in Los Angeles Sept. 23. Twitter is taking several measures to protect user privacy for location services, which have become table stakes at a time when users are leveraging an increasing number of services from their Web-based smartphones such as the Apple iPhone, Palm Pre or Google Android.
Twitter said it is still working on its geolocation API
for allowing developers to add latitude and longitude to any tweet. Twitter
platform lead Ryan Sarver shed more light on how geolocation in the
microblogging service will work at the Twitter Conference
in Los Angeles Sept. 23.
SmarterWare's Gina Trapani
the news in a developer session. While such sessions aren't normally
breeding grounds for breaking news, the marriage of the hottest Web service on
the planet with location-based services could be something of a Reese's Peanut
Butter Cup for programmers looking to create and nurture such services.
Location-based services have become table stakes at a
time when users are leveraging an increasing number of services from their Web-based
smartphones such as the Apple iPhone, Palm Pre or Google Android. Google,
Yahoo, Loopt and Brightkite all provide location-aware applications to help
users find friends, local restaurants or even shopping deals.
Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone announced
Twitter's work on a location API in August, noting that it
would be opt-in to assuage the privacy concerns of Twitter users.
According to Trapani, Sarver said users will have to
visit their Twitter accounts' settings page to allow Twitter to store that data,
meaning it will not be enabled by default.
"Even if your Twitter client sends lat/log points
along with your status update, if you didn't explicitly opt into including that
information, Twitter will drop it at the point of entry and it will not be
stored or published," Trapani wrote.
Also, Sarver said Twitter clients will include a checkbox
below the posting area labeled something like "include my location with
this tweet." Users who check the box when they send a tweet will still
have to visit their Twitter settings page to give Twitter permission to store their
Moreover, Twitter will jettison geolocation data stored
in tweets more than 14 days old to avoid subpoenas about a user's location. Twitter
is looking into ways to store this safely store this in the future.
These details underscore that Twitter is being extremely
sensitive about handling user data with its location API. This is crucial in
making it work. People are nervous enough about leaving digital footprints on Google
and other Web services without worrying about how these Web services are
tracking their physical movements.
The fear is not so much that the location
service providers can access the location of users, but that law enforcement authorities
and other government agencies can use this information for their own purposes. Privacy
scary possibilities with location service
Read more about geolocation in Twitter on TechMeme here
Meanwhile, the Twitter Conference is proving to be quite
the entertainment spotlight despite having only some 400 attendees, according
to this BusinessWeek report, which notes motivational speaker Tony Robbins and
skateboarding celebrity Tony Hawk as two of the participants.
Finally, Twitter application developers have a place to promote
their applications, according to TechCrunch, VentureBeat and others
is an app store featuring more than 1,300 Twitter-based apps.