When we think of tipping, many don’t see it as anything beyond a display of gratitude. However, Twitter’s latest feature is prompting its users to rethink this sentiment. It hasn’t been long since Twitter released their new Tip Jar feature, which allows users on the platform to send tips to designated accounts. However, online users and security experts are already exposing the vulnerabilities in its architecture.
Twitter’s Tip Jar has sparked concerns over user privacy due to the exposure of user’s shipping address, not to mention concerns over fraudulent payment disputes. Here’s what you need to know about this feature and what it means for your financial and data privacy.
When Social Media Sharing Crosses a Line
It was recently revealed that the new feature may not be as secure as it was believed to be. Users were quick to point out a critical flaw that reveals their shipping address to the recipient when sending money through PayPal. Shortly after, others also discovered that Twitter Tip Jar could reveal a user’s email address even if no transaction took place. Only a limited number of accounts can receive payments, including creators, journalists, experts, and nonprofits. However, anyone can send tips, making the new feature’s vulnerabilities more concerning.
The reason why PayPal displays the sender’s shipping address is because Twitter categorizes tipping as a payment transaction. Therefore, recipients would receive the sender’s payment and shipping details by default, just like any other vendor would in a typical online transaction.
While your information is not shared publicly, exposing it to recipients poses increased security risks.
Picture this: Hackers recognize notable recipients and hack their accounts to steal their information—including your personal address. They then use your information to carry out targeted phishing attacks and ransomware. You lose your data, your device becomes infected and therefore unusable, and you’re even more susceptible to identity fraud—all stemming from an attempt to leave a digital tip as a token of goodwill.
Good Intentions Turned Bad
Twitter Tip Jar is a prime example of a good idea gone awry. Twitter released the feature to support notable members of their community, many of whom prefer to use Twitter due to the level of anonymity that is allowed by the platform — it does not require your real name, which potentially leads to more anonymous interactions than other social media sites. For this reason, Twitter users are more vulnerable to privacy concerns when using the Tip Jar.
In addition to privacy concerns, hackers could also misuse the Tip Jar feature through fraudulent payment disputes. If someone tips a Twitter user using the Tip Jar and later files a “dispute” regarding the payment, PayPal requires the recipient pay a $20 dispute charge. Now imagine if a malicious entity does this to a recipient multiple times. The user could quickly accumulate hundreds of dollars in dispute charges instead of tips, causing the direction of money flow to effectively be reversed and financial stress on the recipient.
Safely Navigate the Social Landscape
It can be challenging to safely navigate social media from a cybersecurity perspective because sharing is now synonymous with social networking. If you actively participate on social platforms, here are the three tips you should follow to side-step any security gotchas along the way:
1. Share your gratitude, not your information
Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround to avoid publicly sharing your shipping address while using the Twitter Tip Jar. When sending a tip using Tip Jar, rather than inputting an address under the shipping address form field, simply defer to the “No address needed” option to keep your address private.
2. Update your privacy settings
Double check your privacy settings in both your social apps and your connected third-party payment systems. As you navigate this new feature and any that are up–and–coming, take note of the privacy policies that impact how your personal data is being used. (e.g. Twitter has updated its tipping prompt and Help Center to make it clear that other apps, such as PayPal, may share information between people sending and receiving tips).
3. Turn on automatic software updates
Security researchers and engineers are constantly working to fix software bugs and vulnerabilities in the background. By turning on automatic updates, you are guaranteed to have all the latest security patches and enhancements for your apps and tools as soon as they become available.
Practice Caution When Faced With New Features
It can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon when a shiny, new feature makes its way to the social media platforms you use and love. But taking the time to learn about these features before choosing to participate can save you from a potential privacy headache, especially in the case of the Twitter Tip Jar. By educating yourself on both the benefits and the risks, you’ll be able to take actionable steps that protect your personal information.
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