Twitter Throws a Wrench at Discovery

Businesses are increasingly turning to social media for a variety of purposes, ranging from simple employee communications to marketing and training. As a result, these website are building vast databases of collected data, leading many IT professionals, executives and legal professionals to become concerns about the security of this information. Many of these fears are likely the direct product of the big question: who owns social media data?

Twitter revamped

TechCrunch recently reported that Twitter has issued a statement regarding a new option for business and personal users to download entire archives of tweets. According to the news provider, the social media site is allowing each user to download their entire archive of tweets and retweets, which will be easy to browse and search via keyword, phrases, usernames and hashtags.

The source explained that Twitter believes this process will actually take months to achieve, but will be rolled out gradually throughout the beginning of the year.
“If you don’t see that option in Settings today, know that it’s on the way! We’re rolling out this feature slowly, starting today with a small percentage of users whose language is set to English.,” the Twitter blog post read, according to TechCrunch. “Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll make it available to all users around the world, for all the languages we offer. We’re really excited to bring this feature to everyone, and we appreciate your patience as we work to do so.

What this means to discovery

Starting from the first concern in-house counsel might have, was all this data always stored by the social media website? Well, yes, of course it was, because Twitter’s blog post indicated every use can re-obtain every tweet they have ever made spanning back to the beginning of the service in 2007. While business executives might not be as concerned with social media data from six years ago – as the services didn’t gain traction in the enterprise landscape until more recently – this nonetheless has discovery implications.  Almost four years ago, Debra Logan wrote on the Gartner blog that tweets and other social media communications are discoverable, just as any web-based data. The author quoted Douglas E. Winter of a Washington, D.C.-based law firm.

“Twitter posts are like any other electronically stored information,” Winter told Logan. “They are discoverable and should therefore be approached with all appropriate caution.”
As Twitter and Facebook continue to reshape their privacy policies, data ownership specifications and archiving capabilities, business executives will need to ensure that their companies are adequately protected against discovery nightmares.