Blog post

The long and the short of it

Created:  16 Aug 2017
Updated:  16 Aug 2017
Author:  Lucy S
Part of:  Social media
Grasshopper hiding behind a leaf

We know that some people are understandably wary about clicking on links when it's not clear on where those links will take you, yet we've been using shortened links on our Twitter feed since, well since before we were the NCSC. We used the shortened form for common enough reasons; saving characters at the time when every single one counted towards the 140 limit, gathering metrics on how our tweets were doing, and aesthetics - they just look cleaner and tidier.

However, the shortened form has obvious drawbacks as it reveals user data to 3rd parties, and it runs contrary to GDS’s guidance on the subject. It also conceals the final link destination from the user, which means that you can't hover and check it is genuine before clicking on it (though you can't use this technique on mobile devices, and even when you can, you may still be no wiser if a link is 'good' or 'bad'). It's therefore not surprising that the use of shortened URLs has been a consistent theme in the feedback we get. We're surprised we didn't notice it earlier ourselves <facepalm>

When the NCSC started we said that we would listen to you, and where your feedback would result in making our practices more effective and transparent we'd implement it.

So, we've had a think*. After we'd confirmed we could still run the metrics there was nothing to stop us from only using links that are exactly what they claim to be. And that's what we're going to do, we'll be using the long-form links and we won't be using those shortened URLs any more. You might have already noticed a couple of tweets with the full link, in future all of our tweets will be like that.

Lucy S
Social Media Lead

*and a cuppa and a cake

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1 comment

Fiona Anne Millington - 18 Aug 2017
in apple store the tech person set up a google shortened link when i have a hotmail account and since going around in circles - so hopefully will be able to rectify. Encountered issues with use of personal data because name written with first and surname on different docs and depts - therefore spent 5 years in total trying to sort out. Only resolution was to request my name in full.

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