O2 exceeded daily tweet limit in reassurance campaign after data leak

O2 has revealed it exceeded the daily amount of tweets Twitter allows users to send yesterday (25 January) in a bid to quell consumer fears over a security flaw that meant its customers’ mobile numbers were being leaked to any website they visited.

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Speaking at Marketing Week’s 1-2-1 Digital Strategy Summit in London today (26 January) James Paterson, PR and social media campaigns manager, said O2 amassed the same amount of Twitter mentions in a day as it usually does in an entire week as thousands of customers stormed the official account with queries.

A blog post from O2 customer and web systems administrator Lewis Peckover alleged that O2 customers’ phone numbers were appearing in the URLs of websites that they visited via the mobile web. It meant that the owners of any website visited by an O2 customer could have access to their data without their consent.

O2 subsequently admitted on its blog that it had been passing its customer’s mobile numbers over to “certain trusted partners” since 10 January. It added this was “standard industry practice” but that the “technical error” was fixed on 25 January.

Paterson said it was important that O2 did “not stay quietly in [its] shell” as news circulated about the data leaks and that the company employed a strategy immediately to respond to user questions and communicate that it was investigating the issue.

O2 employed the use of a programme called CoTweet to respond to as many individual questions via Twitter, which resulted in the company exceeding its daily limit that morning. The telecoms company asked Twitter for an extension on the amount of tweets it could send, but this was refused.

In the meantime, O2 prepared its “Q&A” blog post to explain the technical reasons behind the data leak and to apologise for the concern caused, which was published on 25 January, then updated with additional information on 26 January.

Paterson said: “We wanted to respond to as many people as possible with fair answers. In the past we may have just given a Q&A the well-known media outlets, but our people understand that if you answer queries and communicate to people on social media straight away, problems tend to be resolved more quickly.”

In its blog post, O2 said it is in contact with the Information Commissioner’s office and Ofcom about the fault.

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