Twitter has admitted to using customer data for ads without users’ consent. This continues a trend of social networks continually pushing the bounds of what they can do with your data. Before we get into what you can do to limit how much data Twitter’s advertisers can use to target you, let’s look at why your data is so important to tech giants.
Your data is Twitter’s product
The pressure Twitter is under to increase advertising revenues must be intense. The world’s 12th largest social network is trying to keep up with Facebook. Facebook’s the world’s largest social network and is known to track its users relentlessly, even when its users are not on the site.
Check out Twitter’s ad buying system to get a sense of how extremely focused targeting tools use the data that is collected about you to monetize the site.
The microblogging platform used to support the Do Not Track browser preference. But it stopped because “an industry-standard approach to Do Not Track did not materialize.” Now users have to rely on more “granular” controls. And more “granular” means more work to lock down your information.
Until now, Twitter has avoided the flurry of privacy scandals that resulted in Facebook incurring the largest fine ever imposed on a company for violating consumers’ privacy. Yet the admission that advertisers were given information about users and inferences about their devices is just another reminder that your data can be extremely valuable.
Wondering what Twitter knows about you? F-Secure’s Data Discovery portal directs you to the archive of data the site has about you. WARNING: This archive can be quite large.
Let’s look at what you can do to limit the amount of data Twitter can share about you with advertisers.
Uncheck your interests
The best thing about Twitter is you can just follow the people you like and avoid almost everything else. This is especially true if you use Tweet Deck, which delivers tweets from your feed in real-time.
But the way you use Twitter offers the site a lot of insight into the topics you may enjoy. If you don’t want Twitter to “personalize” your experience based on this, uncheck the boxes here. Click “Known for” and you’ll likely limit the way the site uses you for advertising.
Click “Interested in” to avoid being targeted based on your behavior. WARNING: There may be a lot of boxes to click.
Uncheck ‘Inferred interests from partners’
“Twitter’s partners build audiences around shopping decisions, lifestyle, and other online and offline behaviors,” this section of your Twitter profile explains.
You can uncheck all these boxes. But the better move is just to go to Content Preferences and turn Personalization and Data “off.”
See how many ‘audiences’ you are a part of
If you want to get a sense of how well Twitter has targeted you, check out Tailored Audiences. WARNING: You will have to enter your password to do so.
Now, if you want to get out of being targeted as part of all these audiences, double check to make sure you’ve disabled all of the “Personalization and data” settings the site offers. And you should definitely make sure “Share your data with Twitter’s business partners” is unchecked.
Check out your ‘Twitter data’
While you’re digging into your account, this is a good time to check out your “Twitter Data” page.
Deactivate any apps you aren’t using. Don’t worry: you can always reconnect them.
If you log in, you can also see how many devices and computers are using the account and deactivate any that you no longer use.
Social networks know how you use their sites
F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer Erka Koivunen urges users to check their privacy settings, but not to expect that any setting will preserve your privacy. This is because these settings are designed for the service’s needs, not yours.
“Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards,” he says. “And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”
Do what you can to limit how much of your private data Twitter share with advertisers. But always remember that the only real limit is a company’s integrity.