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The world's richest man is about to have a treasure trove of invaluable social media data at his fingertips, which has sparked concern amongst privacy groups.
Twitter has entered into a 'definitive agreement' to be bought by the Tesla boss for $44 billion (£33.3bn).
How Musk will wield his power over the popular social networking site is yet to be seen, but that hasn't stopped some from speculating about the tech billionaire's motives.
Yes—Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter means all your data—including your DMs—are at the whims of the world’s richest man. Musk has indicated that transparency will be a priority, but it remains unknown what that will look like in this privacy minefield: https://t.co/2cOdiWTb2m pic.twitter.com/bVzFL35gh1— WIRED (@WIRED) April 26, 2022
Deputy director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future Evan Greer told Wired that Musk could choose to access everyone's private messages.
Greer suggested he could use these DMs and data to provide intel to external parties or to force users to disclose their identities - something which has not previously been required to use Twitter.
"Elon Musk is now literally the king of Twitter," Greer said.
"There is nothing stopping him from accessing your direct messages or handing them over to a government—perhaps one in a country where Tesla is trying to do business."
The Chinese government, who is infamous for monitoring both the public and private discussions of its citizens, demands tech companies keep user records, according to Wired.
Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square? https://t.co/jTiEnabP6T— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) April 25, 2022
Rival billionaire Jeff Bezos highlighted in a tweet thread that Musk also has major business interests in China.
Bezos has since responded to this on Twitter by sharing a New York Times reporter’s tweet highlighting how China is Tesla’s second biggest market, and that the electric car company is reliant on the country’s supply of batteries.
Alongside the quote, Bezos wrote: "Interesting question. Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?"
Musk himself has admitted his close ties with China, benefits from tax breaks and cheap loans in the Asian superpower, according to Bloomberg.
So what are the changes we know that Musk is planning?
Well, the tech billionaire has already announced a range of goals for the social media platform, such as 'making the algorithms open source to increase trust' and 'authenticating all humans'.
Associate professor of cybersecurity law at the United States Naval Academy Jeff Kosseff expressed concern over how users would be expected to share their personal information with Twitter.
"I don't know what Musk means by this, but what would concern me most would be if everyone had to authenticate their identity with Twitter," he told Wired.
"Any small requirement to provide identifying information, even if it doesn’t require you to post under your real name, would really alter the ability of many people to speak online, especially outside the US."
Looks like we will have to wait and see what the future holds for Twitter and its users.
Featured Image Credit: David Branson / Alamy Stock Photo. PSL Images / Alamy Stock Photo.
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