UK & Twitter – the privacy lawbreaker

The UK has seen a 22% increase in Twitter followers this week alone. The sole reason is because it had an exclusive which Britain’s ravenous tabloid papers craved. So how does Britain regain control, and where next for lawmakers?

And where next for the Footballing Tweets?

Why Twitter?

The reason for the increase in new members for Twitter has been the recent news regarding a footballer and former Big Brother house-mate Imogen Thomas.Although the footballer took out a Super-Injunction to prevent the story breaking it was leaked through Twitter. Within days of the post going up the news spread like wild fire.

After the twitter unvailing,  the issue was front page news as Britain’s worst kept secret. The news only became official yesterday (23/05/11) when Lib-Dem MP John Hemmin  announced the identity of the player as Ryan Giggs.

The announcement was deemed ‘of national interest’ due to the player’s attempt to find out who had been posting his private life across the social-web. The hype generated both by the initial post ‘outting the player’ and subsequent lawsuits meant that Twitter has become the buzz word across the UK.

Twitter & Privacy – Cornering the market

Anonymity exists on the social-web because Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and MSN all keep a tight control over their personal data. This is done for two main reasons:

  1. Data protection laws
  2. To prevent the competition stealing their data

With the data kept outside of the UK, the legal loop-holes one must go through to prosecute require the approval of the High Court here, but also the courts in the US. As this process would require years of legal action, in reality it is almost impossible to police online comments and users are free to make any remarks they wish.

The problem is, how does a nation ensure the right to privacy that each citizen is entitled to?

The answer is simple by nature but extremely difficult in practice. Governments need access to this data in extreme circumstances. With Twitter and Facebook’s data in the States, holding UK users to account is nigh-on impossible, however, if the data from a particular nation were to be stored within its own borders then there could be greater control. Although the thought of David Cameron and MI5 being able to access my holiday photos from Las Vegas is daunting, there is a real possibility that the growing trend in cyber-bullying and libellous acts could be brought to court.

Do not count on this happening. The costs for Facebook and Twitter to manage the data migration alone would be astronomical. Until there is a way to hold users to account, everyone’s private life is free game.

And the Footballers?

Many managers are looking to ban the Twitter craze amongst their playing staff. Recently Sir Alex Ferguson has said:

“I don’t understand [Twitter], to be honest with you. I don’t know why anybody can be bothered with that kind of stuff. How do you find the time to do that? There are a million things you can do in your life without that. Get yourself down to the library and read a book. Seriously. It is a waste of time. It seems to have a certain momentum at the moment. Everyone seems to want to do it… [Players] are responsible for their actions. We as a club are looking at it because there can be issues attached to it. And we don’t want that.”

The FA have been throwing fines at players who have been ‘inappropriate’ online like rice at a wedding. During England’s friendly versus Ghana, West Ham’s Carlton Cole tweeted ‘Immigration has surrounded the Wembley premises! I knew it was a trap! Hahahaha. The only way to get out safely is to wear an England jersey and paint your face w/ the St. George’s flag!’ He was fined £20,000.

The FA after handing out the fine stated ‘We would advise players not to stop tweeting but to bear in mind that this is not an intimate private conversation.”

Surely fines like these mean that the FA want to stop footballers tweeting?… No, to date the FA have raised over £36,000 through fines alone.

The FA is pocketing a nice slice of money from players’ poor judgement. Twitter has now become for the FA what smoking is to the government, a ghastly sight which blights the community but too lucrative for them to quit. With Britain’s Twitter community growing, there will be more people reading everything tweet by Britains’ playing elite.

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