Twitter asked to Track Users ‘Everywhere They Go’ says Ex Twitter Employee

According to recent reports, Steve Krenzel, an ex-employee claims that he and his team were asked by a large telecommunications company to track “when users leave their house, their commute to work, and everywhere they go throughout the day”.Read the entire article to find out more about this news piece.

Steve Krenzel
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About  Steve Krenzel’s Twitter Thread

“With Twitter’s change in ownership last week, I’m probably in the clear to talk about the most unethical thing I was asked to build while working at Twitter,” Krenzel wrote in a lengthy thread on Twitter.

“I worked as a software engineer on a team with a charter to make Twitter work better for people in emerging markets (Brazil, India, Nigeria, etc…). This meant a lot of mobile work. And was mostly non-visual stuff – reducing bandwidth, memory usage, battery consumption,” Krenzel said.

“One of the first areas I worked on was improving the way our mobile apps uploaded logs. Twitter, like most mobile apps, logs everything users do – every swipe, tap, edit, delay, etc – for debugging, metrics, and experiments.”

Krenzel, who became known as the mobile logs guy, said he was pulled into a sales conversation. “A large telco wanted to pay us to log signal strength data in North America and send it to them,” he said.

He said he worked with data science to find a granularity that would preserve the anonymity of users. “When we sent this data to the telco they said the data was useless. They switched their request and said they want to be able to tell how many of our users are entering their competitors’ stores,” he said in his thread.

When the telecommunications firm was unhappy with what was offered, Krenzel says he was asked by Twitter to go to their headquarters and “figure out exactly what they want”.

“I wound up meeting with a Director who came in huffing and puffing. The Director said, ‘We should know when users leave their house, their commute to work, and everywhere they go throughout the day. Anything less is useless. We get a lot more than that from other tech companies.’”

“As far as I know, the project actually got canned. Jack genuinely didn’t like it. I don’t know if this mindset will hold true with the new owner of Twitter though. I would assume Elon (Musk) will do far worse things with the data,” Krenzel, who now works with fintech firm Brex, said.