Users have a chance to stop Twitter tracking their personal information by opting in to the “Do Not Track” scheme.
We have a love-hate relationship with social networks: on the one hand, they’re a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, develop our professional networks, and waste time looking at pictures of cats; on the other, they use our personal data for profit. While Facebook have metaphorically stuck their middle finger up at critics over concerns about how the social networking site is treating its users’ personal data, Twitter has taken a different approach.
Having announced they would be using data about users’ browsing habits mined from websites with an online Twitter button to create new follower suggestions, Twitter also revealed that users would be able to opt out of this practice.
The do-not-track feature is an integrated part of Mozilla’s Firefox browser, and other browsers offer similar extensions or plug-ins that fulfill the same purpose. Once users have checked the right box and activated the feature, the browser adds the Do Not Track header (DNT: 1) to all server requests. Websites that honor this choice (read: respect user privacy) won’t track your online activities or mine personal data from other websites.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook has chosen not to honor this choice, and it could have been very easy for Twitter to go down the same road. The fact that the social network has chosen to let users have a certain level of control over the company’s data-mining practices suggests that Twitter could purposefully be striking out, and positioning themselves as the network that cares about user privacy – a start contrast to Mark Zuckerberg’s recently-floated empire.
Activating the do-not-track feature
If you’re already using Firefox, you can activate the do-not-track feature using the following steps:
1. Open up a Firefox browser.
2. Click on the Firefox menu and select “Preferences”.
3. Click on the “Privacy” tab.
4. Check the box marked “Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked.”
“Do-not-track” on other browsers
If you’re not currently using Firefox, and don’t relish the thought of downloading Mozilla’s browser, you can still make your preferences known to the websites who have agreed to honor this feature.
Google Chrome users can install the Keep my opt-outs extension, which permanently opts your browser out of cookies that are used to provide targeted advertising. Like Firefox’s do-not-track feature, the extension depends on companies adhering to industry privacy standards – if they don’t, then the extension isn’t effective.
Note: even though the warning states that the extension can access your data across multiple websites, the developers do not track your online activities.
If you’ve installed Chrome 17.0 or higher, you can also install the Do Not Track extension.
For Safari users, the process is slightly more complicated:
1. Open a Safari browser.
2. Click on “Preferences”, then select “Advanced”.
3. Check the box marked “Show Develop menu in menu bar”
4. Close the preferences window.
5. Click on “Develop” in the toolbar menu.
6. Select “Send Do Not Track HTTP Header”.
IE 9 users can stop websites tracking their online movements and data by going to the Do Not Track test page, and clicking the link near the bottom to add a Tracking Protection list to the IE browser. Once that’s done, click on “Add List”.