Image from Esther Vargas
"Twitter's announcement is bad news for online privacy," Marc Rotenberg, president of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center, told The Associated Press. "The company dropped Do Not Track and gave advertisers access to more user data."
But there's reason not to get too worked up: Twitter's also rolling out a new set of controls giving you the choice to opt out of sharing certain kinds of data. You just have to remember to actually do it since they're going to to opt you into these changes in a month's time.
Twitter explains their rationale on their website:
Twitter has discontinued support of the Do Not Track browser preference. While we had hoped that our support for Do Not Track would spur industry adoption, an industry-standard approach to Do Not Track did not materialise.
Then, of course, there's the fact that Twitter can generate more revenue on tailored advertisements than it can on generic ones. And tailored advertisements require a bunch of information about who you are and what you like.
Cookies: When you visit a site that has a Twitter share button or a tweet embedded, Twitter utilises tracking cookies to store information about you. Previously, the platform kept this information for 10 days. As per the new privacy update, Twitter is extending this to 30 days. Tripling the storage length means they will have more data and, in turn, be able to create a more complete profile of you.
This change is not impacting those living in the European Union or member states of the European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Sharing your data: This part is a bit murky, but essentially, Twitter is changing how it shares your "non-personal, aggregated, and device-level" data. The troubling part is that some select partnership agreements will link the data to your personal information like your name and email, which means Twitter's partners can get access to a comprehensive profile of you.
The good news is that Twitter gives you the option to revoke access. But know that Twitter is taking a "consent until told otherwise" approach: They will assume you've given permission unless you rescind it.
How do I stop sharing all my data?
With Twitter opting out of "Do Not Track" and changing how they share your data, the platform introduced new Personalisation and Data settings that it says offers "even more granular control over how [they] use your data". By "granular control" they mean you can pick and choose what information they can share and what they can't.
This page seeks permission for personalised ads, personalisation across all devices, access to your location, tracking to see where Twitter content is seen across web, and sharing data with select partners.
On your mobile app, go to "Settings and privacy", "Privacy and safety", and then "Personalisation and data". This will land you on a page where you can enable or disable Twitter's access to your information. You'll also have to do the same on your web browser by going here and customising your preferences.
Just know that the default setting is for everything to be enabled — so if you have an issue, you have to manually hop in to opt out and customise the settings.
What do I do?
Up to you! If you're into receiving tailored ads then you don't have to do anything to your settings — Twitter will soon be using your information to tailor ads directly to you. If you want to share some information but not others, then you should go to the personalisation and data page and choose which settings you want to enable and which you don't. And if you're fully creeped out by how much information is being shared, choose "disable all".