Data Privacy: How Twitter Uses Your Information

Over the weekend, Twitter sent an email to this writer, and perhaps millions of other users on its platform, about the need to change password on “all services where” the password has been used. According to the company, it recently unmasked a bug that stored passwords in an internal log.

The social media platform claims to “have fixed the bug and our investigation shows no indication of breach or misuse by anyone.”

While that assurance may come as a relief, users should not forget Facebook in a haste; in 2014 it discovered that Cambridge Analytica was assessing data illegally and thought it had “fixed the bug” by ordering the company to delete the data it had accumulated, only for whistleblowers to reveal years later that the problem was not quite “fixed”.

Today, while Cambridge Analytica has confessed it amassed over 80 million users’ data, shut down its operations and declared bankruptcy, Facebook is left to clean up a mess that may not go away as soon as possible.

Twitter appears not to be taking any chances however. Prior to sending its email, the company had on April 24, following the outbreak of the Facebook data scandal, released a post detailing what it does with the information it generates by the second from its more than 300 million monthly active users. The company would also be changing its Privacy Policy, effective May 25th.

To understand the ramification of a data breach on the platform; 79 percent of Twitter accounts are based outside the United States while 83 percent of 183 members of the United Nations have Twitter presence. Twitter users send out a total number of 500 million tweets per day.

“We believe you should always know what data we collect from you and how we use it, and that you should have meaningful control over both,” Twitter wrote in a post. “We want to empower you to make the best decisions about the information that you share with us.”

There are many ways Twitter generates its information. The privacy policy explained that even if a user is only looking at Tweets, certain insights like the type of device the user is using and the IP address. An IP address or Internet Protocol address is the number label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses Internet Protocol for communication.

When users volunteer information such as their email address, phone number, address book contacts, and a profile picture, Twitter uses these for things like keeping the account secure and showing more relevant Tweets, people to follow, events, and ads.

Apart from volunteering information, Twitter gets data when users read a particular content, or Like a post, or Retweet. The data is used to determine what topics people are interested in, their age, and the languages they speak.

Twitter says its users have control over the amount of data it collects from them and it uses the information. Users can also control things like account security, marketing preferences, apps that can their account, and address book contacts they have uploaded to Twitter.

“You can always download the information you have shared on Twitter,” the company noted.

The new Twitter Privacy Policy was prompted in part by upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws in the European Union. While the laws are only in the EU, Twitter says the privacy settings and privacy policy update applies worldwide. BD.

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