Twitterers: Don't Expect Privacy When You Squat a Brand Name.

By  |  Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 9:57 am

twitterlogoThere is a bit of hub-bub on the net right now over Twitter’s actions surrounding the release of contact information regarding an account that had been registered to the Skype brand name by a former employee of the company. Apparently, the VoIP provider found out that it couldn’t tweet under its own name because somebody already owned it.

The user id @skype was registered to Stephanie Robesky, a former employee of the company who is now with venture capital firm Atomico, started by the former Skype founders. According to her own account, while at the company she registered the name and told someone in marketing “who ignored her,” according to TechCrunch Europe.

Robesky then says she forgot about the account, and only was reminded of her ownership of the account when a Skype employee contacted her about the account. Twitter had released her contact information, which included an email address, which obviously was no longer valid.

This obviously angered Robesky, because she proceed to public post her retort to Twitter on her own personal blog:

“This is a violation of my privacy and, quite honestly, probably a big violation of your privacy policies. It is unprofessional of your team to hand out users information regardless of circumstances and this is something that we never would have done at Skype – even if Obama himself couldn’t log in to an account that he says wasn’t even his!

A privacy violation this is not. Whether unintentional or not, or whether you have used the account or not, those who have registered trademarked brand names that aren’t the company themselves should have no expectation of privacy. It’s somewhat like saying to a court, “well, I know its a trademark, but you shouldn’t be telling the company who I am to legitimately contact me about it!”

Second, which I don’t know why the original source of this reporting brought up, is that Ms. Robesky’s old Skype e-mail was her name. So obviously, she was a Skype employee, and Twitter likely shared this with Skype because it thought (Twitter doesn’t know who Skype’s employing!) she was still an employee.

I think its good that Twitter isn’t getting involved in the muck of allowing squatting to occur. I think a policy of immediate termination and/or disclosure of contact information to the trademark owner is a good thing to do.

This will discourage squatters from laying claim to these accounts, and prevent long drawn out court battles and negotiations over control.

Ms. Robesky, I am not calling you a squatter. But lets be real. This was a valid move on Twitter’s part. Skype wanted its account back, and it should be rightfully theirs, don’t you think?


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4 Comments For This Post

  1. Lloyd Budd Says:

    I think you meant to write “Twitter had released her contact information” instead of “Skype had released her contact information, which included an email address,”

    (feel free to correct to delete this comment)

  2. medienfieber Says:

    sounds a bit like in the very early days of the WWW, when companies requested regular folks to turn over domain names …

  3. Ed Oswald Says:

    thanks lloyd, nah I’ll leave it. We don’t like to coverup our screwups.

    Med – i dunno.. brand names are a special case.. otherwise I can see where there would be a problem.

  4. Dave Zatz Says:

    There could be many trademark holders of many names and variations, plus regional-specific registrations. Twitter should not disclose the identity of the person behind any account with some sort of legal entity getting involved. Of course, they should feel free to kill the account or transfer ownership in obvious cases.

    What’s unique thing about this case, as you pointed out, is that they had a (former) Skype employee in their database and assumed a breakdown in that company’s communication chain. I can see it now. “It’s registered under your colleague’s name, so check with so-and-so.”

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