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(not satire – I’m sorry to say)

There have been rumours for some time now that some people – police, journalists, hackers – are able to trace personal phone numbers and home addresses of Twitter users if the user was accessing Twitter from a mobile phone.

I’m not sure of the legality or not of the alleged methods used – but needless to say it bypasses the expensive and time-consuming proper method of getting a legal notice to force Twitter to reveal information about its users.

I was therefore very interested when it was brought to my attention that a journalist who regularly writes for the Mail and the Express was openly boasting on Twitter that she had used her ‘contacts’ to ‘trace’ the personal numbers and home addresses of people she claimed had been trolling her*.

Now given the disgraceful recent history of journalists hacking personal phones – many people are understandably quite worried about the possibility of having their personal information so available to newspapers.

So I decided to politely ask her about it:

poulton question

I’m deliberately not naming her in this article because I don’t want the story to become one of personalities any more than it already has – but if you look at my Twitter timeline here you can see the identity of the journalist in question.

To cut a long story short, my polite enquiry resulted in the journalist not denying the accusation but still refusing to answer how she managed to get the phone numbers and other personal information. She then blocked me and called me a w**ker.

She was also joined by a couple of her supporters who spent the next 24 hours or so very aggressively insulting and trolling me.

Needless to say this only made me even more sure I was onto something.

So I had a look at her timeline, and sure enough she clearly states she was ‘given’ the phone numbers of her so-called trolls*:

poulton1In conversation with a couple of her followers, she also very clearly states that her ‘contacts’ or what she calls her ‘techies’ managed to ‘trace’ the numbers for her:

poulton2This is all very worrying. Apart from the fact here we have a journalist for a national newspaper using her ‘contacts’ to trace Twitter users’ phone numbers and addresses in order to fulfil some sort of personal vendetta* – is this not also proof that journalists – and presumably police or other organisations – are able to bypass Twitter’s privacy and security methods at will?

Have UK newspapers learned nothing after what they did to Milly Dowler’s family?

What do you think?

*Tomorrow I’ll write more about the real reasons why this journalist might have been so keen to trace certain people’s personal information on Twitter.