Twitter joins Do Not Track

Twitter's Othman Laraki, Director of growth and international, has announced a new tailored suggestions feature in a post on the Twitter blog. Twitter had been showing the same suggestions to new users, which Laraki said isn't ideal. To help people get started more quickly on Twitter, new users will see a list of tailored suggestions and a timeline with tweets from those accounts. Existing users may also see tailored suggestions in 'Who to follow'.

According to Laraki, the suggestions are in part based on tracking: "We receive visit information when sites have integrated Twitter buttons or widgets, similar to what many other web companies – including LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube – do when they're integrated into websites. By recognising which accounts are frequently followed by people who visit popular sites, we can recommend those accounts to others who have visited those sites within the last ten days." However, he added that the company is "committed to providing […] simple and meaningful choices about the information we collect to improve your Twitter experience," noted that Twitter supports Do Not Track, and said you can disable tailoring options within your account settings. This will "stop the collection of information for the feature and remove any tailored suggestions we have for you".

Tracking should be opt-in

UI designer Dustin Curtis was initially shocked by Twitter's blog post and its admission of tracking: "[It] is wrong. People don't expect Twitter or Facebook to know about their movements on the web." He was also critical of Do Not Track, arguing tracking "should not be opt-out. It should be opt-in. At least until such behavior by companies is commonly understood."

However, Twitter itself responded to Curtis, stating that it does not sell browsing history (doing so would violate Twitter's own privacy policy) and that said history is deleted after a maximum of ten days. Editor and writer Jeremy Stanley sided with Twitter on his own site. He called Curtis's post "tinfoil hat, bat-shit insane talk," and noted that browsers increasingly offer Do Not Track options that Twitter would comply with. Still, although the option might be there, that doesn't mean users will know about it or use it. According to the New York Times, Mozilla reports only 8.6 and 19 per cent of desktop and mobile users, respectively, have activated Do Not Track, and that's for a non-default browser typically more commonly used by technically savvy users.

What are your thoughts on Twitter's tailored suggestions and web tracking? Do you think Do Not Track is discoverable enough or understandable to general web users? Let us know in the comments.

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