X has a new audio and video calling feature – and it's a huge privacy blunder

X audio and video calls
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

X's (formerly Twitter) new phone and video call feature may be one of the biggest social media privacy and security blunders I've seen in a long time.

Last week, X enabled on-platform audio and video calling for everyone. Not just those paying for X Premium ($8-a-month) but for average, everyday, non-verified X users.

Sounds wonderful, right? A no-cost way to call anyone and everyone on X. Except it's not.

See more

Without asking, X enabled audio and video calling for X's roughly 550 million users. It defaults to "People you follow" and at least appears to require that they also follow you.

The big problem, though, is that with almost 20 years on the platform, many of us followed and have been followed by a lot of people whom we do not really know all that well or do not even want to know anymore. Did we at one time accept a direct message or send one to them? Sure. But that was eons ago, and perhaps we just forgot to unfollow them.

Now picture this. Any of those followers (whom you follow), can drop into an existing Direct Messages thread, select the little phone icon that appears next to the profile pic of their X contact and immediately initiate a call (audio or video). There's no prompt asking if this is a good idea or reminding you to DM them over text first. You select the call mode and X launches the call. Surprise!

The truth is that most of us prefer text messaging over calls. Audio and video calls are reserved for our closest friends and family (and the required office video conference calls).

And while I've created some close bonds with my Twitter (X) friends, almost none of them have my phone number nor do I have theirs. Most of them would be shocked to receive a voice or video call from me.

X calls

Turns out that if I've followed and DMed in the past with anyone on X, they can, without warning, call me on X. The third screen shows the controls, which you'll find under settings in the Direct Messages tab on X mobile. (Image credit: Future)

I get what Elon Musk is trying to do here, make X a do-it-all platform, something akin to China's WeChat. It might be a worthwhile ambition if it weren't for X's myriad problems like negative public sentiment and a significant loss of advertisers because of the platform's endless pipeline of vitriol and some of the stances taken by Tweeter-in-Chief, Elon Musk.

No one that I know asked for Twitter...er...X..to add this feature, and certainly no one expects such a thing to be turned on by default.

X Audio and Video calling capability is a privacy and security disaster in the making and X and Elon Musk should set it to off by default immediately.

In the meantime, if you're still on X, you can open the DM panel in the mobile app, and toggle the feature off. At the very least, you might want to turn on "Enhanced call privacy" to hide your IP address from contacts during calls (I can't believe Musk left that on by default, too). 🤦‍♂️

You might also like

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.