Tip-Toeing around Regulations: Does Twitter’s new Tip Jar feature avoid Data Privacy and Advertising Laws?

May 27, 2021

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2 min read

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What's going on here?

Twitter’s new Tip Jar feature allows people, who use Twitter in English, to send money to users with a Tip Jar icon on their profile.  

What does this mean?

Popular social network Twitter has created a feature that enables users to show monetised appreciation for the tweets and accounts they like. The feature was announced in a blog post by Twitter’s senior product manager, Ester Crawford. Crawford wrote: “You drive the conversation on Twitter and we want to make it easier for you to support each other beyond Follows, Retweets, and Likes.” 

Tapping the Tip Jar icon will take users to a list of Payment Services. These Services vary, between regions and account settings, and can include PayPal, Venmo, Cash App and BandCamp. From there, users can then select their preferred Service and send their chosen amount. 

So, can everyone add the Tip Jar icon to their profile? Before we get too excited the answer is no. Twitter has said that “for now” the feature will be used by a select group including “creators, journalists, experts, and nonprofits.”

What's the big picture effect?

The Tip Jar feature has come under scrutiny since its launch in May. This follows a tweet from security expert Rachel Tobac, who published this warning to users: “Huge heads up on PayPal Twitter Tip Jar. If you send a person a tip using PayPal, when the receiver opens up the receipt from the tip you sent, they get your address.”

In response to this, Twitter’s Head of Consumer Product  Kayvan Beykpour tweeted “this is a good catch, thank you.” Twitter’s solution is to include a warning for people who give tips through Paypal. Whilst only an issue from payments made via PayPal, there is still cause for concern. Particularly when a “warning” is the best protection Twitter can muster, this raises significant questions surrounding data privacy and protection.

Concerns over personal data are not the only issue. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has emphasised the need to protect consumers with tougher regulation on social media advertising. See our article on that by clicking here! Will Twitter celebrities pose the same issue as unregulated Instagram Influencers? The latter have repeatedly been called to action, facing scrutiny where sponsored posts have lacked discernible #AD disclosures. The popularity of the Tip Jar feature remains to be seen, it will be interesting to see whether the ASA considers greater regulation necessary.

Report written by Mohini Kotecha

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