Twitter's attempt to protect TV exec's privacy backfires

Critic of Olympics coverage jettisoned for tweeting NBC Sports exec's email address


Twitter's ill-advised attempt to enforce an apparently not applicable privacy policy, combined with the ever-formidable law of unintended consequences, has rendered the reported workplace email address of an NBC Sports executive about as private as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Of course, that's only if you believe a workplace email address is private/personal in the first place ... a dubious proposition at best.

(They predicted "The iPhone will fail." Now?)

The story begins with Guy Adams, a Los Angeles-based correspondent for The Independent of London, seeing his tweeting privileges unceremoniously revoked by Twitter after he unleashed a torrent of 140-character brickbats upon NBC and the head of its Olympic Games coverage, Gary Zenkel. (Yes, the fellow who wouldn't let us watch the opening ceremonies live while the rest of the world watched the opening ceremonies live.) One of those tweets by Adams urged readers to complain to Zenkel ... and helpfully provided the executive's workplace email address.

Someone apparently dropped a dime on Adams for tweeting that address, and Twitter pulled the plug on the journalist's account, telling him:

Your account has been suspended for posting an individual's private information such as private email address, physical address, telephone number, or financial documents. ...

It is a violation of the Twitter Rules to post the private and confidential information of others. For more information on this policy, please see the following policy page.

That page doesn't say any such thing, noted Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon, but this one does note that it's a no-no to post "non-public, personal email addresses."

Is a corporate email address non-public and personal? Generally not - at least not on this side of the pond -- although I'm open to the notion that there may be exceptions. It took me all of 30 seconds to find this page that lists all kinds of email addresses for various NBC Sports employees right on the Web site of NBC Sports. Figuring out Zenkel's address is no brain-teaser. And it's difficult to argue the address is private when I'm pretty sure he wouldn't get to keep it if he went to work for CBS.

Whatever your view of that question, though, Twitter didn't do Zenkel any favors here. As a practical matter, there's no debating the fact that Zenkel's workplace email address is now a heck of a lot more public and less personal than it was yesterday, as the story of Twitter's dubious policy enforcement ricochets around the Internet in news stories and blog posts, many of which, unlike this one, include the actual address.

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