How to Opt out of Stolen

[EDIT Thursday, Jan 14th: Hey, Inc has announced that they’re shutting down the app].

Header image: “Marta rails at Miami Circle” by Stephen Harlan, CC-BYYesterday, Holly Brockwell of Gadgette wrote about a new app called “Stolen” that allows users to claim other people’s twitter accounts as trading cards, much like Foursquare users can claim businesses.

She interviewed Hey, Inc CEO Siqi Chen, the app’s creator, about how twitter users are automatically opted-in, and how there is massive potential for harassers to use the app to abuse marginalized people.

Chen, to his credit, acknowledged the problem, and Hey has since added an opt out page–but it requires users to authenticate with Stolen via twitter, giving the app permission to view followers and post tweets.

I emailed Hey expressing my frustration that the app required me to trust them with my twitter account in order to opt out.

Chen responded to me personally, acknowledging that the Hey team had messed up badly and promising to do better in the future. He also told me that users who aren’t comfortable authenticating to the app can opt out by DMing (or tweeting, but DM will get a faster response) an opt-out request to the app’s twitter account, @getstolen, or to his personal account, @blader.

I tweeted my opt-out request and got a confirmation within a few hours (the confirmation apologized for the delay–they told me here that DM is the better option).

So if you’re uncomfortable with your twitter profile being used as a trading card that anyone can pay to ‘steal’ and write comments on, this is a reliable way to opt out.

And hey, companies that get called out for not taking into account how your products can harm marginalized people? You could do worse than to follow Chen’s example. He apologized, acknowledged the problem, committed to trying to fix it, and worked to get an opt-out solution out the door quickly. In a field where most people respond to abuse concerns with dismissiveness, gaslighting, and passive-aggressive facebook posts (I’m looking at you, Peeple), Chen’s decision to take responsibility and try to fix it is a breath of fresh air.