Twitch Glitch Exposes Streamers' Messages

The worst thing about services and features shutting down might be losing all of your data. To soften the blow, some companies make your content available for download before shutting down a service. But it turns out that when Twitch let streamers download their archived data from Messages, a feature it shut down in May, it accidentally included other people's communications in some of those archives.

Messages allowed streamers and other Twitch users to communicate with each other somewhere other than each livestream's chat box without requiring them to use other services. Because many streamers feel compelled to interact with their viewers for large portions of the day--even when they aren't streaming--Messages provided an easy way to communicate with those communities while the stream itself was offline.

Twitch decided to put the kibosh on Messages in May. "Messages have been deprecated due to legacy technology," reads the Messages tab on Twitch's dashboard, ostensibly because "This allows us to work on new ways for you to contact others on Twitch!" The company gave streamers a chance to download their communications until November 1, though, which should help make sure any important messages aren't lost forever.

But according to Polygon, numerous streamers have received emails from Twitch informing them that some of their messages were mistakenly included in archives downloaded by other streamers. Here's what the company told Polygon about the issue once complaints started to surface:

"In May, we removed a legacy feature called Messages and provided users the ability to download an archive of past messages. Due to a bug in the code that generated the message archive files, which has since been fixed, a small percentage of user messages were included in the wrong archives. The primary use case for Messages was promotion; streamers sending out mass communication to subscribers, for example, and the majority of messages that were unintentionally provided to another user fall into that category. We have notified users via email and provided them the affected messages for review. Protecting our users’ privacy is important to us, and we have taken actions to ensure this kind of error does not happen in the future."

Twitch hasn't acknowledged the issue on its blog, primary Twitter account, or customer support Twitter account. What it has done is quietly introduce a way for streamers to check to see if their messages were affected by the error on its website, but it requires users to check a page for a feature that's been "deprecated" for months. Even then, it merely says "None of your private messages were affected" (at least if they, well, weren't affected). What exactly those users were or weren't affected by isn't said. People just have to trust that Twitch truly notified everyone affected by the error.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.