What You Need to Know About Twitter's Privacy Policy

August 17, 2018

Twitter is one of the most prominent social networks, spanning from personal conversations to global news. If you're one of the millions of individuals with an account, you may wonder how the platform collects and uses your data.

Following controversies about social data misuses and the passage of the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe, Twitter has revamped its privacy policy. The up-to-date document illuminates what Twitter knows and how it shares and uses that content.

What Data Does Twitter Collect?

As with all social networks based on public-facing profiles, a lot of Twitter's data comes directly from you. Other information points may come from fellow users, device features or partner organizations. Taking these many sources into account, Twitter collects content including the following:

  • Information you input into your public profile: from your display name to your location.
  • Your own contact information, which is used to create an account. You also have the choice of voluntarily giving Twitter access to your address book and contacts list.
  • Logs of your communications, public and private. Twitter's policy states it does not share the content of non-public direct messages or use them for ad targeting.
  • Payment information if you buy Twitter services - for example, if you purchase ad space.
  • Location data collated from IP address and device settings. Depending on your preferences, the service may use more detailed location data.
  • Usage data, based on what links you interact with via Twitter and how. Twitter also uses browser data stored as "cookies."
  • Log data based on website usage, even if the person accessing Twitter hasn't logged in or created a Twitter account.
  • Partner information collected from advertisers and organizations working with Twitter. This can include demographic data, projected interests, mobile device IDs and more. Twitter also collects data from third-party sites that embed tweets - though not when the browser seems to be in the European Union or European Free Trade Area.

What Does Twitter Do With Your Data?

Twitter, as with many other social networks, uses data internally to customize the information it displays. From its ubiquitous "trending topics" to more localized trends or popularity rankings, these algorithms are a central part of the way tweets are organized.

The social network also shares user data externally. Advertisers, for instance, get anonymized data about their ads' popularity. Some third-party websites ask to be activated or given permission. Non-public data such as private messages may get into the hands of third-party organizations if the person to whom you sent the information uses such a site in conjunction with Twitter. Other service providers such as Google, with its ubiquitous analytics suite, also have access to Twitter data. Twitter also gives data to government agencies when compelled by legal request.

Can You Stop Twitter from Collecting Information?

Twitter offers some controls regarding what kinds of data are collected. For instance, accounts can be set to public or private, and photo tagging by other users can be turned on or off. Moreover, the ability to be found based on email or phone number may be enabled or disabled, while direct messaging can be limited to people who follow your account.

There are also control panel settings to turn off the extent of personalization based on history, location and interests. There is also a way to review what the platform knows about you and what kinds of advertisers have reached you based on your profile. You can also access or delete your personal data Log data is kept for up to 18 months, or until account deletion. Public data, however, may live on in third-party searches after you delete your account.

In a world where communication often goes hand in hand with data sharing, when using any website, you're going to be better equipped to deal with those issues when they arise. The same principals can apply to other areas of your privacy and identity protection. Learn more about Identity Guard and ways to help protect your identity.

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