Twitter quietly builds a profile of all the subjects it thinks you’re interested in — and you can now view it for yourself.
The social network has revamped its privacy settings, letting users see their predicted “Interests” based on their profile and their activity on the site. You can see yours here.
Among the 54 interests for my personal @robaeprice account, it thinks I’m interested in “business and news,” “political elections,” and “commentary” — about right, if vague. “Retirement planning” and “mutual funds” are less accurate, however.
Another (male, mid-twenties) colleague’s seemed wildly wrong — including “batteries,” “corporate women” and “back to school shoppers – teens.”
A third’s was more-or-less right, including “Indie,” “Style,” “Make-up and cosmetics,” and — strangely — “HaHa.”
You can untick any interests you’re not in fact interested in, or would just rather that Twitter didn’t associate with you. And even if you’re not concerned about being tracked and quantified online, it’s still an interesting demonstration of just how tech companies try and precisely profile you.
Twitter also lets you download a list of all the advertisers targeting you. For example, I’m part of 6,921 audiences from a whopping 2,241 advertisers — everyone from gambling firm Paddy Power to Kim Kardashian. Download it by clicking “Request advertiser list” here.
Twitter “personalizes” its adverts based on factors including your apps on your phone and the locations you’ve been. It might not prompt you to install a certain app you’ve already got, for example, or it might hit you with ads for a certain restaurant you frequently tweet nearby.
You can deactivate personalised adverts too, here.
Twitter is framing the changes as giving users more control, and part of its commitment to privacy.
“Privacy is built into our DNA as a company and it’s something we take an active role in promoting and advocating for across the world. We partner with civil society, we stand up to governments and we continue to evolve our efforts around transparency,” it said in a statement. “Our commitment to protecting and defending your privacy will continue as we build our industry leadership on this issue.”
It’s a nice attitude, in theory. But the best tools in the world won’t help if people aren’t aware of them.
Your data is valuable, so make sure you know how companies are using it.