Who could possibly have known that entrusting your critical data to a free service might turn out to be a bad idea?
Twitter has silently, and without warning, deleted reams of lists users have spent months curating. These lists are used by journalists, activists, and loads of other people, to organize and manage twits they follow and aggregate their tweets, links, photos, and videos.
For the past several days, though, lists have been disappearing from folks' profiles with no notification, and no explanation from Twitter thus far. Some private, or locked, lists have been made public.
Among those impacted by the cockup is Australian freelance journalist and Cryptoparty founder Asher Wolf, who said the issue appears to be tied those who use the mobile Twitter App. Switching to different platforms doesn't help access or restore missing lists, however.
Wolf added that in her case, the deleted lists represented thousands of hours worth of work and were a critical professional tool. "I have three locked lists that I scan for journalism, infosec and Middle East news. Those lists are gone," she tweeted. "My three biggest lists just disappeared. Decade of work. Other ppl also reporting lists disappearing."
Two things strike me about this.
- Twitter is a free service by a private company running on a closed source code base. You can not expect to have any reasonable control about the data you collect, share and manage on that platform. None. At. All. They can in fact vandalize, change, modify or delete your account without ever having to offer any kind of explanation.
- Entrusting a decade's worth of work results to a free service by a private company governed by restrictive terms of service is an extraordiarily bad judgment call to make, especially for a journalist and technologist, who of all professions should know how to protect and save their data.
Twitter may be technically at fault here but having no backups ready and expecting "private" online content to stay private forever is just not something you can rely on. Errors, security breaches and changes to the terms of service happen all the time. Complaining about this makes you look like the idiot you probably are — and being a crybaby about it. Everyone is an idiot, at one time or another. Just admit you've been one, focus on the lessons learned and, well… again: learn from it. If you lose critical data, it's not anyone's fault but yours. And maybe, just maybe, spend some time mulling over the unspeakably old saying: "you get what you pay for" — Amen.