Twitter Implements Do Not Track Privacy Option
May 18, 2012

Twitter Implements Do Not Track Privacy Option

A new Do Not Track cookie-blocking feature was announced by Twitter this week for Mozilla´s Firefox browser. This privacy feature blocks websites from using cookies to track the user´s behavior and personal information. Do Not Track only works on sites that have signed on to the service – a list which now includes Twitter, reports Mashable´s Alex Fitzpatrick.

A browser´s cookie settings are used for many purposes, including storing information that some, including Google, argue makes browsing the web easier, such as remembering your location when checking the weather for your town, etc. However, cookies also deliver advertisements to you based on user´s behavior or location, called “behavioral ads.”

However, some believe that cookie-based tracking is a breach of privacy. Facebook has previously come under fire for following users around non-Facebook sites.

Although Twitter tracks its users too,  in a much less aggressive way, the company has decided to take a different route and has announced that it is joining Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, and giving its users the ability to opt-out of being tracked in any way through Twitter´s service.

Ed Felten, chief technology officer for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), announced Twitter´s involvement in the privacy feature at a New York Internet Week privacy session titled, “Opting in to Do Not Track: A morning mini-conference on privacy, tracking and more,” writes Nick Bilton for the New York Times.

Twitter confirmed the FTC´s announcement in a statement, “As the Federal Trade Commission´s CTO, Ed Felten, mentioned this morning, Twitter now supports Do Not Track.” Ms. Penner added: “We applaud the FTC´s leadership on Do Not Track, and are excited to provide the benefits of Do Not Track.”

This announcement is a continuation of privacy-centric moves that the company has been involved in.  On May 8, the company fought back against a government subpoena for the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester. But this may also show the company´s intent to draw a line in the sand with regard to its business model.

Last month Twitter was also lauded for announcing the Innovator´s Patent Agreement, a new type of patent agreement that gives legal rights to engineers who are awarded a patent, stopping any potential for a patent to be used for offensive litigation in the future.

James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, notes that the new level of information control could be particularly beneficial to Twitter´s teen users, “We´re excited to see an industry leader building this privacy innovation into their design,” reports Casey Johnston for ArsTechnica.

Twitter will also be revamping the follow page for new users by displaying suggestions for users to follow, along with a timeline of tweets so new users can actually see the content of the tweets. But Twitter said it is emphasizing user choice above all.

“For those who don´t want to tailor Twitter, we offer ways to turn off this collection,” Laraki said in his post. Additionally, today Twitter announced that it will be teaming up with Firefox to provide a Do Not Track button in the browser.

“If you have DNT enabled in your browser settings, we will not collect the information that enables this feature, so you won´t see any tailored suggestions,” the post said.

Twitter will also be adding an option to “Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits” so users can enable or disable this function, reports Joanna Stern for ABC News. According to Twitter, the “tailored suggestions” features are just an experiment for now and will be limited at first.