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Twitter updates privacy policy and data controls – is it better or worse for users?

Alex Spencer

Twitter has updated its privacy policy, and launched more tools for users to control how their information is used.

The new privacy policy will be effective as of 18 June, and includes an update to how it uses data from third-party websites that integrate content from Twitter – for example, by embedding tweets or including tweet buttons. The company may now receive log data, including the web address the user was viewing, which can be used as a signal for a user's interests in order to personalise ads and other content – though Twitter says it will "never associate this web browsing history with your name, email address, phone number, or Twitter handle, and we delete, obfuscate, or aggregate it after no longer than 30 days". Notably, this data will not be stored for users in European Union and EFTA states, due to the EU's stringent data regulations.

The update also includes new rules on sharing data with partners. This "non-personal, aggregated, or device-level information" again does not include the user's name, contact details or Twitter handle. However, but Twitter acknowledges that partners may be able to link up with their own data to determine this kind of personal data, if they have user consent.

As part of the announcement, Twitter revealed that it is joining the Swiss-US Privacy Shield program and adhering to the Digital Advertising Alliance Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising, and boasted that "privacy is built into our DNA as a company" – but it's hard to ignore that both of these changes give it more free reign in terms of what data it can collect on users, and how that can be used and shared. 

This is where the new privacy tools come in. Users can turn off both of the above in their Personalisation and Data settings, and Twitter has also added a section for personalisation across devices, enabling users to stop Twitter from using information from other devices where they have logged in. Finally, Twitter has also expanded the 'Your Twitter Data' feature to include demographic and interest data, and advertisers that have included the user in their tailored audiences.