New changes are coming to one of the internet’s favorite social media sites, Twitter. The 140-character shout out platform has recently announced the proposed changes to its users’ privacy settings, targeted advertising preferences, and data sharing.
Data gathering and privacy are hotly contested topics, especially in today’s connected world. An in-depth look at the terms and conditions for many websites might surprise you, especially when it comes to the permissions you granted over your personal information. By creating an account and clicking the “I Agree” box, you might be giving a third-party a peek into your computer use, your browsing history, your identifying information, and more.
Fortunately, the same climate that has made us cautious about sharing our information has also made companies realize that they have to safeguard our data if they want to keep us as customers. By announcing these policy changes and providing opt-out choices for many of the changes, Twitter is acknowledging that its users value a measure of privacy.
Here are some things you should know about where your information can end up, and what you can do about it:
1. Longer Storage
If you visit websites that have something called “embedded tweets,” your visits to those sites were logged by Twitter’s computers. It’s not as invasive as it sounds; instead of thinking of it as a sign-in desk at a security checkpoint in the airport, think of it more like someone looking up from that desk and saying, “Oh look, John was here.”
So why does Twitter bother? It helps them say to advertisers, “John visited [insert name] website, so he must like [whatever that website has to do with]. That makes him a potential customer, so you can send a tweet that shows up in John’s feed.”
That still might sound like you’re being followed, but remember, these targeted ads from online retailers are what make websites like Twitter free. Someone has to pay the people who operate the site, and advertising means those companies pay for it instead of the users.
Twitter will begin storing your visits to those sites for 30 days instead of 10 days, in order to be able to paint a better picture of your interests for advertisers.
2. The Big, Bad Data Sharing
This one is a little more involved and has some privacy experts proceeding with caution. Twitter is not only able to see that you visited a certain website, they can also link your browsing back to your account by authenticating the device you used to log in. Their new changes will allow them to sell what they know to third-parties, including any information they happen to know about you from your device, like your email address.
Fortunately, you have to give your consent for them to share it with those partners; Twitter assumes you gave your consent when you signed into your account, so if you don’t want a certain company to get your information, you have to go into your data settings and revoke that permission. It’s simple, just a matter of toggling the yes/no switch on your screen.
3. You Can Change Your Settings
If you don’t like the idea of Twitter following you around the internet and telling other people what you’re up to, there are some settings changes you can make.
Simply log into your account, then go to Settings and Privacy > Privacy and safety > Personalization and data. In there, you’ll find the options you need to control more of your information. You’ll also see the option to find out what categories of ads you can be sent, and make necessary changes.
Remember, using social media is a choice, and if the thought of others knowing your online behaviors doesn’t sit well with you, then you’ll have some homework to do to make sure your data isn’t gathered and shared. You can start by deactivating accounts whose practices you don’t agree with, or only visit sites that don’t share information with data collectors.