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Aidan Hiljeh

Social Media Reviews: Twitter Respects Do Not Track

Aug 08 2012, 11:22 AM by

Legions of people love to browse the virtually unlimited depths of the web, but not all feel comfortable about the tracks they leave behind. This is the very reason movements such as Do Not Track were created. Speaking of which, internet users who love to express themselves online yet do not wish to have their every movement logged may be relieved to know that Twitter – a favorite destination of many, appears to have their best interests at heart.

Twitter’s privacy policy illustrates its commitment to the Do Not Track initiative, a policy that many of the internet’s most influential brands have been explicitly asked to support. Backed by the U.S. government, Mozilla and various privacy advocates, Do Not Track calls for popular web application operators such as Apple, Google and Microsoft to implement a simple browser feature that when enabled allows users to inform the websites they visit that they do not want to be tracked.

By embracing Do Not Track, Twitter is giving users greater power to protect themselves, and this is something most will surely appreciate. But as usual, there is a catch.
Twitter Covers Its Tracks
It should be noted that Twitter’s approach to Do Not Track differs from that of social networks, search engines and other web applications. In fact, it is actually counter to something it already does, which is track the user. That’s right. Twitter currently suggests accounts for users to follow based on their activity on sites that have buttons embedded from the popular microblogging site. Here’s an example to give you a better idea of how it works:

Let’s say you visit a blog that keeps a Twitter button near each post to encourage readers to retweet their content. Well thanks to a special browser cookie, Twitter can collect certain information so that when you come back there, it is able to make following suggestions based on that visit. So for instance, visit Twitter after a trip to WebProNews.com and you might be suggested to follow Chris Crum, who is a regular contributor there.

Twitter’s implementation of Do Not Track-friendly controls can be seen as a way to offset the firestorm that could arise from users knowing that they are being tracked. Nevertheless, it is complying and putting the power in their hands. Under the new policy, the company is allowing users to disable the suggestions feature by unchecking a box that not only stops them from showing up, but actually removes the cookie that tracks their activity and enables it to make those personalized recommendations.

While some may be alarmed to know that Twitter is tracking their movements in the first place, it tries to calm those concerns with assurance that it has embraced Do Not Track. The company said that it does not use tracking data for any other purpose than to make following recommendations. It also revealed that it only makes those suggestions based on activity within the last 10 days. After 10 days, any data it has collected is discarded.

Mozilla and other strong supporters of Do Not Track have publicly praised Twitter for its decision to get onboard. This could be an attempt to get competitors like Facebook and Google to step up to the plate. Operating two of the largest online destinations in the world, these particular companies have been heavily scrutinized for their failure to play nice and provide the recommended features to their users.

Posted in Social Media, Tech Editorial

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