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If you are using X (Twitter), read what has changed for your privacy sake!

Jelena Đukanović

Senior Associate

19/02/2024

In recent times, a wave of updates to Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies across various apps has raised concerns regarding user privacy. This trend is notably echoed in the transformation of Twitter into rebranded X, under the leadership of Elon Musk. With Musk’s aspirations to evolve X into an all-encompassing platform, or as referred to, an “everything app”, his vision extends to the collection of diverse data types, including sensitive biometric data. Moreover, the utilization of this data for new purposes, such as training AI models, underscores the evolving landscape of digital privacy and its implications for users.

If you want to dive deeper into the legal aspect of collecting personal data, we recommend reading our blogs on the importance of drafting adequate terms of use and privacy policies, as well as our blog on international data transfers. 

Breaking Down X's Latest Changes

Privacy policy updates often slip under the radar, with users quickly clickingAgree” to continue using their favorite apps. However, it’s crucial to highlight the significant alterations. Here’s what you need to know about X’s recent updates:

1. Expanded Data Collection

X is broadening its data horizons, now including:

  1. Biometric Data: With user consent, X can now process biometric information for safety, security, and identification purposes. While specifics on the types of biometric data remain undefined in X’s Privacy Policy, a statement from X’s representatives to Bloomberg suggests a focus on linking accounts to real persons via government-issued IDs, enhancing the security of the platform and deterring impersonation attempts.
  2. Employment Details and Academic History: X is delving into users’ employment and educational backgrounds to facilitate job recommendations, connect potential employers with candidates, and enhance advertising relevance. Users will be able to upload their information such as employment history, educational qualifications, job preferences, skills and abilities, and engagement activities.

You can check out X’s Privacy Policy by clicking on this link.

2. Data Utilization for AI Development

X’s updated policy outlines its intention to leverage collected data for machine learning and training of AI models. The policy states, “We may use the information we collect and publicly available information to help train our machine learning or artificial intelligence models.” The assumption is that the data collected for these purposes will be used for training AI models of the connected company called xAI which set its goal “to understand the true nature of the universe. Despite the vague language in the Privacy Policy, Elon Musk clarified on social media that this data utilization applies solely to public data, excluding private messages or any confidential information. Moreover, there is speculation regarding the correlation between X’s new incentive for journalists to write directly on the platform and the processing of data for AI development. Elon Musk has promised increased journalistic freedom and higher income for those who publish directly to X platform, while simultaneously removing headlines from external news links. 

The Legal Disputes Regarding the X's Data Collection

X, formerly known as Twitter, has frequently found itself involved in discussions surrounding data protection issues. This isn’t the first instance where the company’s data practices have come under scrutiny.

In April 2023, Elon Musk accused Microsoft of unlawfully utilizing data from the X platform to train its artificial intelligence models. Moreover, during the same year, Musk filed a lawsuit against four unidentified entities allegedly linked to Texas residents. The lawsuit alleged data scraping activities on X’s platform, potentially for the purpose of gathering information to train artificial intelligence large language models. While the legitimacy of these claims remains uncertain, what is evident is X’s commitment to safeguarding user data from external entities. On the other hand, the company appears focused on optimizing its own data acquisition and processing capabilities.

The legal disputes regarding X’s data collection continued with the enforcement of these privacy policy updates. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has issued a statement warning against the new privacy policy, expressing concerns about the system-wide collection of extremely sensitive data. According to Amnesty International, such practices pose significant security and privacy risks, potentially amounting to mass surveillance.

Furthermore, questions arise regarding the collection of biometric information and its compliance with the provisions of the GDPR. Biometric information is considered sensitive data under GDPR and must be treated as such. While the collection and processing of biometric data are not prohibited, strict requirements must be met to ensure compliance.

Regarding the utilization of data for training AI models, stricter compliance requirements are expected to be implemented soon. This anticipation suggests a likelihood of increased administrative fines and legal disputes in the future concerning breaches of these rules. Currently, efforts are underway to define these rules rapidly across various countries and territories. If you would like to learn more about this topic we offer insights into these developments in our blogs on EU AI Act and legal consequences that may arise from the use of AI. 

How do These Updates Affect the Users?

These shifts mark significant changes in how X interacts with user data, emphasizing a new era of data utilization and AI advancement.

At the forefront of these changes is the question posed to X users: Are they prepared to consent to such processing of their data to ensure uninterrupted use of the application?

However, the complexity of these updates extends beyond the confines of the X application. They resonate across the broader digital ecosystem, impacting users’ access to content across the internet. With the integration of artificial intelligence, the internet’s content becomes increasingly personalized. Consequently, certain segments of the internet may become inaccessible as content adapts to individual preferences and behaviors. This trend raises critical questions about the future of online accessibility and the balance between personalization and inclusivity.

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