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Wossy reveals himself on Twitter

Internet & BroadbandMicro-blog site Twitter has once again given away more than it should, but this time it's not related to an ill-advised sharing of opinions or sexual shenanigans. And rather than the message of the tweets, it's the structure of the micro-blogging site that's being blamed.

Last night, broadcaster Jonathan Ross accidentally tweeted his personal email address to all his 266,650 followers and found that he was unable to effectively delete the post. (See our news story: Twitter security exposed by Jonathan Ross gaffe).

Twitter has a delete button so that if you inadvertently say something publicly you meant only for a particular person - a DM or direct message - you can get rid of it and cover up your mistake.

As Ross found to his cost, however, pressing delete only makes the tweet invisible; it doesn't actually get rid of it if it someone has already retweeted it and shared your message.

What's more, an Advanced search option on Twitter allows both extant and deleted messages to be uncovered, regardless of whether or not the tweeter believes they have deleted it.

"There's no reason for Twitter to keep these posts. In fact, this is really irresponsible behaviour," said Graham Cluley of security company Sophos.

"In Ross's case, his email address could have been scooped by spammers or used by fraudsters pretending to be the star". Cluley suggests Ross immediately changes his personal email address so as to avoid being spammed or having his identity stolen.

It's an easy enough mistake to make. You find your friend's Twitter name, type your 140-character-or-less tweet and press the send button only to realise there's no 'd' in front of the missive, meaning you've just sent a private message to everyone who follows you.

Although it's possible to monitor who is following you and to filter who can and can't do so, most Twitter fans allow anyone to follow them as it boosts their popularity and gives them a wider audience.

Over the past few weeks, Twitter has been used to break stories - and become a story in itself as Oprah Winfrey became the world's highest-profile tweeter, shortly after actor Ashton Kutcher became the first Twitter user to reach a million followers, not least because of his intriguing tweet exchanges with wife Demi Moore and insights into the Hollywood party scene.

"Accidents like this will happen, and Twitter should be helping, not hindering, its users to clean up the mess afterwards," said Cluley.

Follow PC Advisor on Twitter, at Twitter.com/PCAdvisor.

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