Two weeks ago, I saw a review on our Weddings page of a book called “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality” (HarperCollins). Without much thought, I blurted out in a tweet that it sounded pretty stupid to me. But that started a surprising e-mail conversation with one of the authors, Christopher Ryan. It’s interesting not only for what Mr. Ryan says, but as an example of the way patient authors can profitably engage even caustic critics[.]
Some online commentators raised the question of whether the library’s Twitter archive could threaten the privacy of users. [Matt] Raymond [the Library of Congress’s director of communications] said that the archive would be available only for scholarly and research purposes. Besides, he added, the vast majority of Twitter messages that would be archived are publicly published on the Web.
“It’s not as if we’re after anything that’s not out there already,” Mr. Raymond said. “People who sign up for Twitter agree to the terms of service.”
Knowing that the Library of Congress will be preserving Twitter messages for posterity could subtly alter the habits of some users, said Paul Saffo, a visiting scholar at Stanford who specializes in technology’s effect on society.
“After all,” Mr. Saffo said, “your indiscretions will be able to be seen by generations and generations of graduate students.”
Aside: Doesn’t it seem kind of odd that the issue foremost in people’s minds would be privacy (on Twitter?!) rather than copyright? As in, does Twitter have the right to fork over your tweets en masse to the Library of Congress? Seems pretty clear from their TOS that they do (but do keep in mind that the copyright is still yours; what they have is a non-exclusive license to use your tweets); I’m just surprised that more people didn’t ask that question.