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Fallout from the Twitch data leak is already severe, and it’s going to get worse

A massive gaming breach has exposed some of Twitch's most sensitive data, and nobody is happy.

Twitch app with leaky faucet on side

Twitch is now dealing with the fallout from arguably its most severe data breach to date.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Twitch on Wednesday disclosed a data breach, and it was far from an average, run-of-the-mill leak. This breach involved hundreds of gigabytes of sensitive company data, including platform source code, internal tooling and future product plans, like an Amazon-owned competitor to Valve's Steam marketplace codenamed "Vapor."

Yet perhaps the most sensitive leaked info, and from which we can expect the most fallout, is more than two years' worth of data pertaining to streamer payouts on the platform. Internet sleuths and other curious onlookers have already begun compiling this data into neat spreadsheets and working to verify it against publicly available info. All signs right now point to it being legitimate, though with some unexplained discrepancies. Twitch has yet to confirm the data's veracity.

Streamer earnings are a sensitive subject. The streaming landscape is quite new compared to the world of traditional celebrity, and much of it depends on a streamer's ability to cultivate a daily friendlike fandom with internet strangers. So it's come as a shock to some to see just how wealthy Twitch personalities are, and it's sure to complicate Twitch's relationship with creators and those creators' relationships with their fans.

  • The leak contains earnings stretching back to at least August 2019. It includes Twitch subscriber revenue after the platform's 50% cut, and ad revenue, although the leak does not contain data on sponsorships, donations, merchandise or other financials that we know of right now. (The alleged hacker's messaging suggests more leaked data may be on the way.)
  • Twitch, like YouTube, has become a burgeoning creator ecosystem that largely advertises itself as a neutral platform where any one streamer can make it big through hard work, long hours and community building.
  • However, Twitch also cuts lucrative deals with streamers, often renegotiating the cut it takes on subscriptions and the amount of money it may pay them upfront to stay on Twitch and not leave for YouTube or Facebook. Having streamer payouts laid bare may impose pressure on Twitch when negotiating such deals and make it potentially more difficult for streamers to cut competing deals.

The thief is on what sounds like a moral crusade. This wasn't just an unprotected database that was easy for all to find. Twitch now says a server configuration change left the data exposed to a malicious third party, which deliberately stole it and then posted it as a link on infamous internet forum 4chan with the intent to "foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space," the anonymous poster wrote.

  • Twitch has become embroiled in a series of controversies over the last few years, ranging from its handling of harassment and music copyright strikes to the amount of support it gives certain big-name streamers over smaller creators. In late August, Twitch members organized a boycott of the platform over so-called "hate raids."
  • The 4chan poster, whose role in the hacking is unclear, referred to Twitch as a "disgusting toxic cesspool" and the leak, labeled "day one," may be the beginning in a series of related data dumps.
  • Despite the grand intentions, the leak exposes streamers to potential financial security and personal safety threats now that part of their net worth has been made public without their consent, as Motherboard reported Wednesday.

Some streamers are open about how much money they make. Political commentator Hasan Piker, who the data indicates was the 13th highest-paid streamer since 2019, glibly wrote on Twitter, "Can't wait for [people] to be mad at me about my publicly available sub count again," because Piker opts to make this information available to anyone who views his streams. Many others, however, do not, in part because it can complicate one's public image.

  • The leak indicates 81 Twitch streamers have made more than $1 million from the platform in the last two years. Much like YouTube, these streamers can afford to stream for hours every day and can in the process become veritable and wealthy internet celebrities.
  • The streaming ecosystem is imbalanced, with a vast majority of streamers making close to no money and streaming to anywhere from zero to 10 viewers on average. Smaller streamers have often complained about the struggles to attain viewership and exposure on Twitch, given the platform's organization around a small handful of the most popular video games and streamers.
  • Knowing payout information in blunt dollar figures will likely complicate an already-fragile landscape where most of the money flows to the top and breakout successes are relatively rare. Comparing streamers' relative financial health and arguing over who "deserves" more or less money is already rampant on social media.

Twitch is now in the uncomfortable position of trying to investigate this leak and how it happened, combat future breaches down the line and regain the trust of its community all at the same time. It's not clear right now how this data, regardless of its accuracy, will be weaponized and how it might influence the platform's online and offline dynamics. But this information, once a closely guarded company secret, is now out in the open, and there's no turning back.

Update Oct. 7, 10:45AM ET: Added additional information about the breach from Twitch.

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Protocol | Workplace

The whiteboard wars: Miro and Figma want to make meetings better

Miro and Figma separately launched features on Tuesday aimed at improving collaboration on their platforms.

Whiteboard rivals Miro and Figma each released collaboration improvements.

Logos: Figma and Miro

We expect a lot from our productivity tools these days. You can't just stroll over to your team members' desks and show them what you're working on anymore. Most of those interactions need to happen online, and it's even better if the work and the communication can happen in one place. Miro and Figma — competitors in the collaborative whiteboard space — understand how critical remote collaboration is, and are both working to up their meeting game.

This week, both platforms announced features aimed at improving the collaboration experience, each vying to be the home base for teams to work and hang out together. Figma announced updates to its multiplayer whiteboard FigJam, and Miro announced a new set of tools that it's calling Miro Smart Meetings. Figma's goal is to make FigJam more customizable and accessible for everyone; Miro wants to be the best place for content-centered, professional meetings. They both want to be the go-to hub for teams looking to get stuff done.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

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Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Protocol | Workplace

Hybrid work is here to stay. Here’s how to do it better.

We've recovered from the COVID-19 digital collaboration whiplash. Now we must build a more intentional model for hybrid work.

This is a call to managers to understand the mundane or unwanted projects their employees face, and what work excites them.

Photo: Adobe

Ashley Still is Adobe's Senior Vice President of Digital Media – Marketing, Strategy & Global Partnerships.

When COVID-19 hit, we were forced into a fully digital mode of business operation. Overnight, we adopted available remote work tools — even if imperfect, they were the best tools for the job.

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As Senior Vice President, Digital Media – Marketing, Strategy & Global Partnerships, Ashley Still leads product marketing and business development for Adobe's flagship Creative Cloud and Document Cloud offerings. This includes iconic software brands such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat. Her expanded remit now includes Adobe's strategic partnership work with technology companies globally, including Apple, Microsoft and Google; and driving Adobe's fast-growing mobile app business. Her team is also responsible for the demand generation marketing campaigns that makes Adobe the market-leader, across creative and document productivity segments. Previously she was Vice President and General Manager, Adobe Creative Cloud for Enterprise. Here her team delivered an integrated content creation, collaboration and publishing solution that securely enables brands to create exceptional design and content. Prior to this, Ashley was Senior Director of Product & Marketing for Adobe Primetime, an Internet television platform used by Comcast, Turner, NBC Sports and other global media companies to deliver TV content and dynamic advertising to any Internet device. Under Ashley's leadership, Adobe Primetime won an Emmy Award for the Adobe Pass TV-Everywhere service. Ashley joined Adobe in 2004 following her internship with the company and held several product management positions for Adobe Photoshop. Still earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and her Masters degree from Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Protocol | Workplace

Meet the productivity app influencers

Within the realm of productivity influencing, there is a somewhat surprising sect: Creators who center their content around a specific productivity app.

People are making content and building courses based off of their favorite productivity apps.

Photos: Courtesy

This is the creators' internet. The rest of us are just living in it. We're accustomed to the scores of comedy TikTokers, beauty YouTubers and lifestyle Instagram influencers gracing our feeds. A significant portion of these creators are productivity gurus, advising their followers on how they organize their lives.

Within the realm of productivity influencing, there's a surprising sect: Creators who center their content around a specific productivity app. They're a powerful part of these apps' ecosystems, drawing users to the platform and offering helpful tips and tricks. Notion in particular has a huge influencer family, with #notion gaining millions of views on TikTok.

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Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Payments Infrastructure

Power Index: Payments Infrastructure

A data-driven ranking of the most powerful players in tech — and the challengers best positioned to disrupt them.

Welcome back to the Protocol Power Index, a ranking of the most powerful companies by tech industry subsector, as well as the companies best positioned to challenge them. This time: payments infrastructure.

The payments stack has been evolving dramatically in the last decade with the rise of ecommerce and new forms of money transfers, and though it's a sector that's been touched by Midas through each of its iterations, there's somehow still space for newcomers to be minted. Payments giants have ceded coveted territory to new market entrants during the process, but they are hardly down for the count.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
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