Protected Twitter Accounts – Protected from what?

Is your Twitter stream Public or Protected? I am not here to tell you which one is should be (mine is Public), but when you protect your stream a few interesting things happen.

First is a protected stream really protected? I would say No, while your tweets are not publicly available there is nothing stopping your followers (you know the ones you approved) from retweeting your tweet. Sure if you are using the Twitter web interface the retweet option is not available for protected tweets, and I did recently notice that if you use the Official Twitter apps for Android, Blackberry, or iPhone they also do not provide a retweet option for protected tweets but other clients do.

Tweetdeck for example does warn you when you are retweeting a tweet from Protected account, but won’t actually prevent you from doing it.

A picture named M2

On top of all this we are really only discussing the New Style Retweet there is nothing that can ever stop you from cutting and pasting a tweet and preceding it with RT.

The point of all this of course is that unless you have no followers (or maybe a very small number of followers who you know personally) can you really be sure that what is in your protected stream stays private? I highly doubt it.

Moving on if we put security aside, lets look other impacts of Protecting a twitter stream. Your tweets are excluded from Twitter Search, so when I am searching a term or hashtag, you might have information for me, but I am never going to find it, or be able to include it in a Tweet Bundle, or bring it in to a blog post using a tool like Blackbird Pie (used to generate HTML embed codes for Tweets).

One other oddity of a protected account is you can only reply to people who follow you, well that’s not exactly what the help says, it reads

“@replies sent to people who aren’t following you will not be seen”

Which makes me believe you can actually send the reply it will just never be seen.

So I wonder if you do have a protected twitter account why? I can’t really believe it is for privacy or security (and if it is you might want to rethink your tweets. I know there are specific use cases for protected accounts, I just wonder why people choose to protect their personal Twitter streams.

Twitter Help: About Public and Protected Accounts

6 Responses to Protected Twitter Accounts – Protected from what?
  1. Duffbert
    October 14, 2010 | 7:27 am

    I might also add… if you choose to follow me and I don’t know you or your chosen Twitter ID, I’ll want to see what you post before returning the favor. If you’ve protected your account and I can’t see your content, it’s about 95% certain that I won’t bother to follow you back.

  2. Craig Wiseman
    October 14, 2010 | 8:42 am

    Primary reason: Since I travel a bit, I have decided (along with my family) not to post information that would indicate that I’m not around home until after I return. Protected tweets along me to post about where I am and what I do without making that generally available.

    No, it’s not absolute security. It doesn’t need to be.

    It gives me the ability to post without having to worry about it showing up on random google searches. I don’t need everyone in the universe seeing that I spilled my coffee.

  3. Craig Wiseman
    October 14, 2010 | 9:29 am

    Although, I do have to admit this: After 2400 tweets, it looks like the twitter whale is in the air, shark is below.

  4. Charles Robinson
    October 14, 2010 | 10:12 am

    I protected mine because I was tired of all the zombies following me and having to delete them. Protecting my tweets was the easiest way to prevent that.

  5. Stuart McIntyre
    October 14, 2010 | 11:33 am

    @4 I hear that a lot – why does it matter who or what follows you? Just as the same as you never know exactly who reads a blog post, why do you need to control followers?

    Personally, I don’t now follow anyone new that protects their tweets. It goes against the whole ethos of Twitter for me.

  6. Roger Lim
    October 19, 2010 | 2:54 pm

    I am for giving users a choice to choose whether to stay public or switch to a approval based friend system like the plethora of social networking sites out there. I think it fills a gap for certain people and yes there are good cases for having some privacy controls. I think it will evolve over time just like Facebook’s privacy settings.

    Of course, if you want to share your status and short thoughts with a select few “friends”, you may as well just use Facebook for that. I’m sure that’s not one of the top ten recommendations from Twitter.

    A solution for retweets and cut & paste… legal notices. LOL. Add “Please do not copy” to the end of each tweet.