The biggest changes are not necessarily in how Twitter collects data — after all, the company has always tracked user behavior for better advertising metrics — but in how much information is shared. Instead of just holding on to user activity for about ten days, Twitter is tripling that amount, keeping tracked user data for up to a month.
Worse, according to privacy experts, is that Twitter is dropping the “Do Not Track” option, which has previously allowed users to opt out of being tracked. Further, Twitter has no plans to honor previous “Do Not Track” options. Most other platforms had long since done away with that anyhow, but Twitter had been a lone holdout … and a hero to privacy advocates for this option. Now, not so much.
That’s not to say the general public will care … and they may not even notice. People generally hate ads, but they hate random ads that clutter up their timelines even worse. Now, according to Twitter, the tracking will allow them to create and post more targeted ads. The idea is that, by giving people advertising they actually are predisposed to, they will have a more pleasant online experience while everyone also makes more money.
It’s an interesting dynamic that all users, knowingly or unknowingly, accept. That they are the product being sold, which is why they get Facebook and Twitter and the other social media platforms for free in the first place. And that method is working. Online advertising has grown into a huge multi-billion-dollar industry. Just Google and Facebook alone will bring in $110 billion this year. Twitter may only account for $2.3 billion, but that’s no chump change.
That said, Twitter investors do want more income, so the company will have to come up with a way to gather that income without aggravating its users. It will be interesting to watch how they make that happen.
Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W PR in NYC.