Ex-Twitter engineer says he quit years ago after refusing to help sell identifiable user knowledge, worries Elon Musk will ‘do far worse things with knowledge’

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  • An ex-Twitter engineer mentioned he left the corporate after being requested to help sell identifiable user knowledge.
  • He known as it “the most unethical thing” he was requested to construct whereas at Twitter from 2015-2017.
  • Steve Krenzel predicted Twitter’s new proprietor, Elon Musk, “will do far worse things” with knowledge.

A former Twitter software program engineer took to the platform to discuss what he known as “the most unethical thing” he was requested to construct on the firm earlier than he left in 2017.

Steve Krenzel, who’s presently a principal engineer at Brex, labored at Twitter as a software program engineer from 2015 to 2017, in accordance to his LinkedIn profile. He instructed Insider that he wrote the thread amid Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter to “share a war story and give some support to engineers in similarly difficult positions.”


Krenzel mentioned that, years ago, he was pulled into working with Twitter’s gross sales staff with a big telecommunications firm that wished to pay Twitter to log after which ship it sign power knowledge for North America.

At the time, Krenzel mentioned Twitter was “near death” and “desperate” to discover a purchaser. In April 2015, Insider reported that Twitter’s month-to-month lively customers were on the decline after peaking in August 2014. In February 2016, the company’s user growth had stalled.

Krenzel mentioned he labored with the information science staff “to find a granularity” that may nonetheless “preserve anonymity even when combined with other sources of data.”

But the telco firm thought it was ineffective, and as an alternative wished to have the opportunity to study what number of Twitter customers had been getting into rivals’ shops, a request Krenzel mentioned he discovered “a bit sketchier, but maybe workable in a privacy respecting way.”

After presenting another, Krenzel mentioned the telco firm “didn’t like it and were frustrated,” as was Twitter’s gross sales staff. He mentioned he was then requested to go to the telco’s headquarters, and that “the subsequent request was absurd.”

“I wound up meeting with a director who came in huffing and puffing,” Krenzel mentioned. “The director said, ‘We should know when users leave their house, their commute to work, and everywhere they go throughout the day. Anything less is useless. We get a lot more than that from other tech companies.”

Krenzel mentioned he would by no means help sell “granular identifiable” user knowledge, however Twitter’s authorized staff instructed him the telco firm’s request was “fine” and that it did not violate Twitter customers’ phrases of service.

At the time, Krenzel mentioned Twitter was doing layoffs, and did not have one other engineer to do the work Krenzel and the remainder of his staff did not need to do. Although his staff wasn’t impacted by layoffs, Krenzel mentioned half of them quit.

“I decided to join the exodus and would pull any levers to kill this on my out,” Krenzel mentioned.

He quit. Krenzel mentioned a brand new supervisor then requested if he would keep on the firm and work with the telco firm if Twitter “filled a dump truck with money and dumped it on” him.

Krenzel mentioned he despatched his final e-mail at Twitter to Jack Dorsey, the corporate’s co-founder who served as CEO from the time Krenzel began in 2015 till 2021.

In response, Krenzel mentioned Dorsey mentioned he would look into the telco firm’s request to “make sure there isn’t a misunderstanding.” Dorsey mentioned the request “doesn’t seem right,” and that Twitter “wouldn’t want to do that,” in accordance to Krenzel.

He mentioned the challenge was canned from what he is aware of, and that Dorsey “genuinely didn’t like it.”

“I don’t know if this mindset will hold true with the new owner of Twitter though,” Krenzel mentioned. “I would assume Elon will do far worse things with the data.”

To present Twitter workers, Krenzel mentioned not to underestimate the idea of a “pocket veto,” or not following by means of with selections to stall them.

“Sometimes it doesn’t work out, or you have to escalate and risk it back firing, but a good pocket veto is a tool to learn to wield well,” he mentioned.

Elon Musk, who became Twitter’s new owner final month, replied to Krenzel’s tweet about his assembly with the unnamed telecom director, and mentioned, “Wow, this is messed up!” Musk didn’t instantly reply to Insider’s request for remark forward of publication asking whether or not he would ever sell entry to identifiable user knowledge.

Musk desires to grow Twitter’s subscription revenue, which might help it transfer away from a dependence on promoting, an trade which is going through headwinds.

The CEO has talked about Twitter’s loss of advertising revenue as some advertisers pause or pull out from the platform amid his takeover. In a tweet, he blamed activist groups “pressuring advertisers” for the loss. 

Read the unique article on Business Insider

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