Any website you visit online, or even an application you use that connects to the internet, has the potential to log your IP address and thus your real world location. At the request of a government or powerful figure, ISPs can easily assign an IP address to a real world user and give out a real name.
Under this logic, it can be assumed that any online website could potentially rat out an internet user under the right conditions. And that’s exactly what may have happened to Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser, a Saudi Arabian journalist who was active on Twitter for exposing human rights violations done by Saudi authorities and royalty figures.
Did Twitter Leak User Information?
Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser was arrested on March 15th for running a Twitter account called Kashkool. Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser then later died while being tortured in detention. According to Metro.co.uk, anonymous sources have explained that “They got his information from the Twitter office in Dubai. That is how he was arrested.”
The same source also claims there is a cyber spy ring who has contacts inside the Dubai Twitter office, and that the same contacts handed over information on Kashkool that led to his arrest. Now, the hashtag, #TwitterKilledTurkiAlJasser is trending from users who are upset with the Twitter’s potential leak of a user’s privacy which has lead to his death.
In the past, critics found a verifiable mole that was actually working for the Saudi Government. The mole was Ali Alzabarah, who joined Twitter in 2013, and from then to 2015 he rose in the ranks to an engineering position that gave him access to account information of Twitter users. Twitter eventually found out, telling everyone’s accounts who could have been compromised that “As a precaution, we are alerting you that your Twitter account is one of a small group of accounts that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors,”–but if that happened once, it could easily happen again with the mole hiding their tracks better.
‘We rigorously limit access to sensitive account information to a small group of employees with extensive security and privacy training. No other personnel have the ability to access this information, regardless of where they operate.”
Global Companies Can be Easily Influenced
Twitter advocates that they are committed to protecting user privacy, but that can be a hard mission to really achieve. The reason is that when companies like Twitter expand globally and have offices in other countries, they are often subject to said countries authorities and powers.
We can see examples of Apple complying with Chinese censorship demands and other companies who bend their rules in order to keep making money globally. Make no mistake, as the internet becomes more global, it becomes subject to global corruption as well, and users within certain countries with restricted access or heavy surveillance need to be very careful.
Not only that, but moderating and controlling Twitter proves to be impossible around the world. We don’t want censorship of journalists that are fighting for human rights, but that same open speech forum thinking also lets armies of trolls attack and criticize anyone who is against the government. These online groups are known in real life as “troll farms” and government officials and troll groups are known to create false reports to censor messages, as well has hire mass groups of individuals to harass reporters.
The only real way to ensure your IP and thus your real world identity is protected, is to connect to a VPN before you even launch your browser and login to your social media accounts. This way, Twitter and other companies have no real record of your “real IP” so there is no way they can give up your real name.