Oz stats bureau deploys a bot to harvest Twitter IDs

Which genius thought it was a good idea to cheerily send messages without opt-in?

A cute cat in a jumper waves goodbye.... Pic via Shutterstock

Having managed to creep-out an awful lot of Australia with its high-handed, arrogant, tone-deaf handling of the 2016 Census, there wasn't much left for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) left to foul up, right?

Wrong.

Now the ABS has created a Twitter bot that sucks up IDs of those who mention its @ABSCensus handle and promises to send them subsequent messages. Without opt-in and in the middle of a privacy fire-storm of its own making.

Here's what happens when you seed the Census bot with criticism.

Let's parse this out. At a time when people are threatening to boycott the Census because the agency is behaving like creeps, nobody thought that deploying a creep-bot gathering Twitter IDs was a bad idea that should be canned?

At least Microsoft noticed when Cortana-bot got trolled.

The ABS bot is a creep-bot: in the middle of a public argument about privacy, it's harvesting and storing Twitter identities for future scheduled reminder messages.

You can't call something like this malice: malice is smarter. This is egregious stupidity. Which will only further erode confidence in the agency and the worthy task of conducting a census. ®


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