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Ethical implications of the leaked Twitter documents

July 15, 2009 |  3:02 pm
Biz Stone and Evan Williams
Twitter co-founders Biz Stone (left) and Evan Williams. Credit: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press.

Last night, TechCrunch Editor Michael Arrington posted an animated article describing 310 private documents from Twitter Inc. that had been leaked to the technology blog. Arrington plans to publish them over a period of time, he wrote.

Needless to say, the idea was polarizing.

As evidenced in comments on the post and in the flurry of tweets that followed, the existence of these secret documents, containing information about user and financial predictions, employees' personal details, TV show pitches and plans for a future office, tickled the curiosity of many.

In addition to feeding an insatiable appetite for gossip about San Francisco's hottest Web start-up, the ordeal also carries obvious ethical implications.

An overwhelming number of readers blasted Arrington for exposing classified papers from the Internet darling, calling the leaks "a violation of privacy," "a bad move," "disappointing" and illegal. The immediate reactions incited a quick response from Arrington, who defended the ethics of his decision.

How the Twitter documents were obtained also calls cyber security into question.

It speaks to the potential dangers of storing sensitive information on "the cloud," as some of the obtained messages were stored using Google Apps, according to a post by Twitter’s Biz Stone stressing the importance of having strong passwords. He and co-founder Evan Williams could not be reached for comment. A Google spokesman said the company doesn't comment on specific user issues.

-- Mark Milian

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