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Twitter admits taking data from smartphones

Company copies entire address books from users’ phones, stores it for up to 18 months

Twitter has admitted copying users' address books from their smartphones and saving the data.
Twitter has admitted copying users' address books from their smartphones and saving the data.

Twitter has admitted taking users' entire address books from their smartphones and storing the data on their servers, much of the time without customers' knowledge, according to the BBC.

Twitter gains access to users' address books when they click on the find friends feature on smartphone apps.

Twitter has said it will update its privacy policy to be more explicit.

"We want to be clear and transparent in our communications with users. Along those lines, in our next app updates, which are coming soon, we are updating the language associated with Find Friends - to be more explicit," Twitter spokeswoman Carolyn Penner told the BBC.

The practice came to light when a Singapore-based app developer, Arun Thampi, noticed that his contacts had been copied from his iPhone address book without his consent by a social network called Path.

Dave Morin, CEO of Path, apologised and said Path would ask users to opt in to share their contact information, according to the BBC.

However, he noted that it was an "industry best practice" to upload or import address book information.

Facebook, FourSquare, Instagram, Foodspotting and Yelp iPhone apps are also reported to access the address book.

Social networks have said that the names, phone numbers and email addresses taken from smartphones are used only to identify friends who used the same service, and notify the user. However, sometimes the data is taken without notifying the user or indicating how long the information will be stored for.

Currently, Twitter tells users that it "may customise your account with information such as a cellphone number for the delivery of SMS messages or your address book so that we can help you find Twitter users you know".

Twitter informs iPhone users that it will "scan your contacts for people you already know on Twitter".

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that the app in fact uploads every address book contact and stores it for 18 months.

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