Twitter is reportedly no longer working on a project to encrypt users’ direct messages—a move that would make its users’ communications better able to stand up to efforts by hackers and government spies to snoop on them.
As early as last October, Twitter was said to be working on strengthening the security of direct messages, the only private means of communications on the service. According to The Verge, the company has halted the program for no apparent reason.
The company has put an increased focus on its direct-messaging feature in recent months, completely overhauling the service late last year. If Twitter were to launch encrypted messages, it would bolster its offering against competition from the growing pool of standalone messaging applications that offer secure communications.
Twitter was one of the many technology companies that aimed to bolster privacy and security measures in the wake of revelations about the extent of US government spying by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in mid-2013. Because Twitter is a public platform, the only private conversations happen via protected accounts or direct messages, so it makes sense for the company to focus security efforts on direct messages or DMs.
The company is also among the most vocal in calling for more transparency from the federal government regarding requests for user data, and it was the only company to receive a perfect score on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Who Has Your Back” report in 2013. The social network is not content with the agreement other tech companies have reached with the US government on data requests. Twitter contends that without the ability to specify exact numbers around national security requests, it’s not meaningful to users.
It’s unclear why Twitter halted its encryption efforts. For one thing, since users can opt to receive direct messages by SMS and email, encryption on Twitter’s own apps and websites may only give limited benefits. The company could also be choosing to put energy and attention into attracting new users rather than building new features. Though the company is seeing increasing revenues, user growth is slowing.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. We’ll update the story if we hear back.
Lead image courtesy of Reuters