Many Twitter users – at least those who haven’t deactivated their accounts already – have expressed concerns about privacy since billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform.
Not sure what data you’ve given Twitter, or what data it has inferred about you? Here’s what you should know and what you can do about it.
The data Twitter collects
According to Twitter, there are a number of details it knows about you. Some of it you provided to create an account: your username, email, phone number, birthday, and location. Twitter says there is data they may have inferred about you “such as gender and age range,” but you have the option to set this information as well.
If you have a professional account, you may have provided other information like a street address or another phone number or email.
Twitter can collect your login history, where you have logged in from, apps you have connected to Twitter, contacts you’ve imported, and your IP address. The platform, as well as its partners, have also inferred interests about your account or device which is then used to “improve your Twitter experience.” This means providing ads, notifications, and recommended tweets that may be of greater interest to you.
Twitter may also receive information about you from third parties, like ad and business partners or another service you connect your Twitter account with.
Where to see the data Twitter has on you
This will depend on where you are logged in.
On a desktop, start by clicking on ‘More’ on the left side of your screen. Then select ‘Settings and privacy.’ Under ‘Your account,’ click on ‘Account information.’ You’ll need to reenter your password, but then you’ll be able to see the data Twitter has collected or inferred about you. If you don’t have an account, you can still view the data Twitter has on you by visiting twitter.com, clicking on the ‘Settings’ tab, and following the same steps.
On your mobile device, the process is relatively the same. Tap your photo in the upper left-hand corner, then ‘Settings and Support.’ In the dropdown, select ‘Settings and privacy,’ then ‘Your account.’ You may see less information here than when viewing on a desktop.
To view connected apps and where you are logged in on both desktop and mobile, click on ‘Security and account access’ under the ‘Settings and privacy tab. You’ll be able to see ‘Apps and sessions’ and ‘Connected accounts’ associated with your Twitter account.
Under the ‘Privacy and safety’ tab, you can review interests you have opted into following and those that Twitter has inferred about you. Under the ‘Interests’ tab, you can uncheck interests you aren’t actually interested in.
Twitter also allows you to download an archive of your data. On desktop and mobile, that option can be selected under the ‘Your account’ section. You’ll be asked to verify your account via a code sent to your email or text. Once confirmed, you can request the archive, which is delivered as a ZIP file. Twitter notes it can take 24 hours or longer for your data to be ready, and you will be notified with an in-app notification when it is available.
What can you change?
Not comfortable with how much information Twitter has on you? There are some settings you can change, like removing some of the inferred interests it has on you (see above).
You can stop Twitter from sharing your data with advertisers by viewing ‘Settings,’ then ‘Settings and privacy.’ There, select ‘Ad preferences’ under ‘Privacy and safety.’ You can toggle off personalized ads, meaning Twitter will stop using data collected from your time on the platform and “other online activity and information” from its partners.
Under the same section, you can again review and change your interests, and view how many audiences from advertisers you are a part of. Twitter notes that while you can opt out of interest-based ads, you won’t be removed from advertisers’ audiences. You can, however, request to see the list of advertisers you are a part of – that will be emailed to you when it’s ready.
You can turn off data sharing with business partners – Twitter shares information with those partners “as a way to run and improve its products” – and personalization based on the places you have been.
If you do opt to deactivate your account, Twitter says your account will be permanently deactivated after 30 days and “all information associated with your account is no longer available in our Production Tools.” During that 30-day period, you still have the option to restore your account.
It’s not yet clear what, if anything, Musk will change regarding the personal data Twitter collects from users. Debbie Reynolds, a global data privacy expert and technologist, told USA Today that Musk’s plan to charge users with blue checkmarks a monthly fee and to add other features to the platform could increase the amount of personal information collected.
But, there is a chance it wouldn’t all be bad. Reynolds points to Musk’s other company, Tesla, which is well known for its strict view and practices regarding cybersecurity. Those same practices could be enacted on Twitter.