Vine co-founder halts development of its replacement, V2

There will be no “Vine 2” — at least for now. Trying to take on the giant social networks without external funding proved too tall a task for six-second video app Vine’s co-founder Dom Hofmann. “I’ve made the very difficult decision of postponing the V2 project for an indefinite amount of time. There are several reasons for this, including a bit of ‘sequelitis’, but I’d like to explain the biggest one, which is due to financial and legal hurdles,” Hofmann wrote on the community forums he set up for V2.

Announced in late December out of his frustration regarding how Twitter neglected and eventually shut down Vine, Hofmann had since built a creative tool startup called Byte, and is still leading a virtual reality company called Interspace, but was trying to run V2 as a self-funded personal project on the side. The plan was to launch in 2018 with an app that let you record or upload 2 to 6-second looping videos and much stronger anti-harassment safety features.

But without millions in outside investment, it was an insurmountable task to develop the app, host the videos and grow the audience. While Hofmann didn’t specify, it seems Twitter wasn’t happy about him using the name V2 and an almost identical logo. “The interest has been extremely encouraging, but it has also created some roadblocks . . . The attention has also raised an issue that we might not have faced otherwise: legal fees have been overwhelming,” Hofmann wrote. We’ve asked him and Twitter if Twitter was suing or threatening legal action against Hofmann or V2.

While there’s still no ubiquitous way to share super-short videos, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube are no paltry competitors. So now, Hofmann says, “We take a step back. The code and ideas still exist, but until everything else comes together, we can’t move forward. Again, this is indefinite, which means that it could take a long time. But it’s necessary.”

You can read Hofmann’s full announcement here:

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You should change your Twitter password right now

Yes, it’s that time again — password changing time. On Thursday, Twitter revealed that a bug caused the platform to store user passwords in unmasked form. Normally, sensitive personal data like passwords would be stored in hashed form using a mix of letters and numbers to protect the content of the password itself. In this instance, it sounds like Twitter stored plain text passwords openly without any hashing on an internal log.

Twitter notes that it currently has “no reason to believe password information ever left Twitter’s system” or that these unprotected passwords were accessed by hackers, but the risk of the unknown remains. The company has advised users to change their passwords as a precautionary measure.

Here’s what Twitter says happened:

“We mask passwords through a process called hashing using a function known as bcrypt, which replaces the actual password with a random set of numbers and letters that are stored in Twitter’s system. This allows our systems to validate your account credentials without revealing your password. This is an industry standard.

Due to a bug, passwords were written to an internal log before completing the hashing process. We found this error ourselves, removed the passwords, and are implementing plans to prevent this bug from happening again.”

We’ve reached out to Twitter for more details on the bug and additional information about how this could have happened. Update: Twitter declined to provide additional technical details on the incident but emphasized that is believes the likelihood that the passwords were discoverable is “extremely low” and an internal investigation has revealed no indications of a breach or other misuse.

It’s pretty unusual for a company of this size to make such a basic security mistake, but that’s just another reason for users to take password protection into their own hands. Now is the perfect time to start using two-factor authentication and a password manager like LastPass or 1Password to keep your account credentials safe even when the platforms you use fail to do so.

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Cambridge Analytica has been shut out of Twitter’s ad platform too

It has emerged that Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy firm at the center of a data misuse storm involving Facebook user data, has also been banned from advertising on Twitter’s platform.

Facebook suspended the company’s account in March after fresh revelations were published about how user data had been passed to the company by a developer on its platform — although the Guardian newspaper originally linked the firm to Facebook data in a story published in December 2015.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to us what the company describes as a “policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned and operated by Cambridge Analytica on advertising”, adding the decision was taken “weeks” ago.

“This decision is based on our determination that Cambridge Analytica operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices. Cambridge Analytica may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules,” the company spokesperson added.

The move is unrelated to reports yesterday that Twitter had sold public user data to Dr Aleksandr Kogan — the Cambridge University academic who sold Facebook data to Cambridge Analytica in 2014, after harvesting it via an app that drew on Facebook’s APIs to pull information on users and their friends.

Last month Kogan told a UK parliamentary committee he had subsequently used some of the money Cambridge Analytica had paid him for gathering and processing the Facebook data to buy some Twitter data, though he said he had intended to use that for his own purposes, not for selling to others.

On this, Twitter’s spokesperson also told us: “Based on the recent reports, we conducted our own internal review and did not find any access to any private data about people who use Twitter.  Unlike many other services, Twitter is public by its nature. People come to Twitter to speak publicly, and public Tweets are viewable and searchable by anyone. In 2015, GSR [Kogan’s comapny] did have one-time API access to a random sample of public Tweets from a five-month period from December 2014 to April 2015.”

Cambridge Analytica has also denied undertaking a project with Kogan’s company that used Twitter data.

Although the company has also continued to deny it received Facebook data — despite the existence of a 2014 contract between the company and Kogan to gather data; and despite Kogan’s own insistences that his app harvested Facebook user data.

Facebook has also said as many as 87 million users could have had some of their information harvested by Kogan and passed to Cambridge Analytica.

In a blog post late last month Twitter reiterated some of the policies it has in place to limit access to public Twitter data — even when a developer is paying for it, as Kogan was.

“We prohibit developers from inferring or deriving sensitive information like race or political affiliation, or attempts to match a user’s Twitter information with other personal identifiers in unexpected ways,” it wrote, flagging the Restricted Uses page for more info on types of behaviors it said are not tolerated, and adding: “Developers who are found to be in violation of our policies are subject to enforcement actions, including immediate termination.”

Despite barring Cambridge Analytica from running ads on its platform, Twitter has not suspended the company’s verified Twitter account — which the company continues to use to tweet denials related to the Facebook data misuse scandal.

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