Yesterday it was revealed that Twitter will be honouring requests from users who no longer want their data tracked and recorded, unlike the big boys Facebook and Google.
This week Twitter announced (shockingly in a tweet) that it’s signed up to the Do Not Track initiative, which basically means users have the chance to opt out of having their data tracked, recorded or shared with third parties.
Twitter’s decision to implement DNT features comes at the same time that it’ll be rolling out a new personalised suggestions service. On the Twitter Blog Othman Laraki, Director of Growth and International, explains that the users Twitter recommends at the moment aren’t always ideal and often focus on the most popular (and often boring) celebrities, rather than users that have the same interests as you. He wrote about the experiments for the coming months:
“The first experiment will show new users a list of accounts that we recommend you follow, alongside a timeline filled with Tweets from those accounts. If you’re part of the experiment, you’ll see a Twitter experience that’s relevant to you right when you sign up.”
That all sounds useful, but the reason Twitter has jumped on board with the DNT initiative at the same time, is that for these tailored suggestions to work, Twitter and third party websites need to be keeping a close eye on what users get up to:
“These tailored suggestions are based on accounts followed by other Twitter users and visits to websites in the Twitter ecosystem. We receive visit information when sites have integrated Twitter buttons or widgets, similar to what many other web companies — including LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube — do when they’re integrated into websites. By recognizing which accounts are frequently followed by people who visit popular sites, we can recommend those accounts to others who have visited those sites within the last ten days.”
Laraki then goes on to explain that Twitter wants users to have control over the data that’s collected about them, so if you’d rather not have information about you tracked you can go ahead and change your DNT settings. But don’t expect to have personalised recommendations and new “who to follow” features if you do. You can’t have the best of both worlds.
What is Do Not Track?
Do Not Track (or DNT) is a privacy setting that anyone can change in their browsers.
It comes from an initiative that was born over in the US and has been endorsed by the FTC, here’s a basic rundown from the Twitter Help Center about what it does:
“[It’s] a simple way for users to inform integrated web services which offer content across the Internet (such as buttons, widgets, and other embedded features) that they do not want certain information about their webpage visits collected across websites when they have not interacted with that service’s content on the page.”
You’ll be able to change your DNT settings in recent versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, which means these browsers tell the websites you visit that you don’t want to be tracked.
If you’re a Chrome user you can’t change your DNT settings as easily (although Google allegedly promises an update in the coming months), but there’s an extension you can try too.
Visit the Twitter Help Center for a more detailed how-to about DNT settings.
Visit http://donottrack.us for more information about the initiative.