X [Formerly known as Twitter] announced its decision to discontinue the “Circles” feature, effective as of October 31st, 2023. This feature was designed to allow users to limit the visibility of their tweets, making them accessible only to specifically selected accounts. Users could create a “Circle” and assign specific tweets to it, ensuring that only members of that Circle could view those particular tweets. The impending shutdown of this feature has raised concerns regarding the privacy of personal communications that occurred within the protective confines of Circles before November 1st, 2023.
Christopher Budd, the Director of Threat Research at Sophos, expresses his apprehension, stating, “Although X has not divulged the fate of currently ‘Circle-protected’ tweets, it is prudent to prepare for the worst. The discontinuation of this privacy feature could potentially expose tweets that were previously safeguarded within Circles, either intentionally or inadvertently, thereby jeopardizing sensitive information.” For instance, personal health-related disclosures, such as pregnancy or diagnoses, that were shielded by Circles could become publicly accessible.
After October 31st, 2023, X will eliminate the “per tweet” privacy options. Instead, the sole privacy alternative will be to “Lock” the entire account, permitting only approved accounts to access the tweets. This measure will protect the tweets from public view, but authorized users will have full access to all the tweets within the locked account. If users opt not to lock their accounts after the specified date, all new tweets will be publicly visible at all times.
Regrettably, X has not yet clarified the fate of Circle-protected tweets posted before the aforementioned date, cautions Budd. Individuals who have employed Circles to safeguard their tweets must assume that all Circle-protected tweets could potentially become public. Those who possess Circle-protected tweets and wish to prevent their possible public exposure should proceed with caution and thoroughly review their account settings.
For X users currently utilizing Circles, here are essential considerations:
Download a copy of your data if you wish to retain Circle-protected tweets and manually delete them from your account.
Within your account settings, download a copy of your data to ensure you have a backup of Circle-protected tweets.
Utilize this data as a checklist for manually deleting Circle-protected tweets to prevent their potential public disclosure.
Exercise vigilance if you intend to close your account, as your handle may be claimed by another user. If you are concerned about account impersonation, consider not closing your account but instead maintaining it, emptying it by deleting all tweets as previously mentioned, and securing it with a robust password and multi-factor authentication using an authenticator app.