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What Twitter’s changes mean for your data privacy

Twitter is under new management and undergoing radical surgery. 

A major overhaul of Twitter Blue is just one of Elon Musk’s plans after buying the company on October 28th, 2022.

Currently, 89 percent of Twitter’s revenue comes through advertising. Musk wants it to be less dependent on ad sales and is accelerating its paid subscription and super-app strategy.

However, this will involve you sharing your banking details with Twitter, which has data privacy implications. So to stay informed about these changes, it’s best to ignore the political circus and follow the facts.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Twitter Blue?

Twitter Blue is an opt-in subscription service that gives you a verified blue checkmark — giving paying users access to new features, like Edit Tweet.

Musk has said that all verified accounts will be “manually authenticated” before receiving their blue tick alongside color-coded ticks for governments (grey) and companies (gold).

While the verification service is currently unavailable due to impersonation issues, when it returns, Twitter Blue subscribers will receive the following benefits:

  • Your tweets will go to the top of replies, mentions, and searches. Twitter will also prioritize the tweets from subscribers to help fight spam bots.
  • Subscribers will see 50% fewer ads than non-subscribers.
  • You can post longer videos than non-paying users.
  • Chance to set an NFT profile picture. 
  • Share content with 1080p (Full HD) video.

What does Twitter know about you?

Twitter’s mission was to help people create and share information instantly, without barriers, so user privacy has never been its forte. Unless your profile is private, all your tweets are a public record and searchable forever.

Brass tacks — they want mass engagement and users tweeting as much as possible. 

Since it’s free to use (for now, at least), ads currently pay Twitter’s bills. So like other social platforms, Twitter tracks your digital footprint and promotes tailored ads based on your personal information and browsing habits. 

Here’s what Twitter knows about you, according to their privacy policy:

  • Your username, location, date of birth, joining date, personal website, and even what you look like if you uploaded your face as an avatar 
  • Your contact information, including email address and phone number
  • Location information
  • Any engagement you’ve made with ads, including liking, retweeting, replying, or “publicly engaging with an ad” 

How to improve your data privacy on Twitter

Unfortunately, you can’t stop Twitter from tracking you entirely, but you can restrict the information they harvest.

If you’re worried about your data privacy, go to the “Settings and privacy” tab under “Settings”

  •  Click on “Privacy and safety” 
  •  Scroll down towards “Data sharing and personalization” 
  •  Once there, you’ll be able to opt-out of most things

Under “Ad preferences,” you can turn off “Personalized ads” while switching off “Inferred identity,” which stops them from using your data from other websites and devices. 

Also, by unchecking “data sharing with business partners,” you can prevent Twitter from sharing your information with third parties.

Even if you follow these measures, your data is always vulnerable on social media.

In January 2022, a hacker – going by the name “devil” – exploited a vulnerability in Twitter’s system, compiling a list of email addresses and phone numbers linked to 5.4 million user accounts

The hacker claimed in Breached Forums, a notorious hacking website, that the accounts ranged from “celebrities, companies, randoms, OGs,” and put them up for sale.

While Twitter has since patched its system error, the hacker was asking for no less than $30,000 for his stolen database in July 2022, which is available due to “Twitter’s incompetence.”

Can you trust Twitter Blue with your data?

Since 2006, the platform has collected a treasure trove of information, including email addresses, passwords, and private correspondence, inside its direct-message inboxes. 

Twitter’s messaging system currently doesn’t have end-to-end encryption, unlike chat apps WhatsApp or Signal.

With Twitter Blue collecting payment information for its verified subscription services, they must ensure it won’t misplace or misuse your data.

Now you could delete all your DMs, but they will only disappear at your end. The recipient of the conversation will need to delete them too.

If you choose to delete your Twitter account for privacy reasons, they will retain your data for 30 days after you deactivate it, allowing you to restore your account within that time frame.

illustration of VPN

Protecting your data privacy with a VPN

With a virtual private network, you can enjoy an additional layer of security by hiding your IP address. Twitter and other companies use your IP to track your location and fill your feeds with ads. 

Masking your IP protects your Internet freedom as it makes it harder for them to track your location online. 

Let’s say you live in Miami, Florida. With a VPN, you can switch your IP to Cancún and use the Internet as if you’re in Mexico. 

If you turn on a VPN, your digital footprint will no longer be trackable as your browsing habits are anonymous, making it an excellent privacy tool.

Taking control of your data privacy

Given the changes to Twitter Blue, the platform has an even greater responsibility to protect its user’s data. It would be devastating if your banking details fell into the wrong hands.

Everything is and always will change, and that includes social media companies. Technology companies will always shed their skin to stay relevant and, more importantly, profitable. 

While everyone has their views on Musk’s Twitter, there is nothing you can do about it either way. It’s how you respond that counts.

So you need to decide how much data you’re prepared to give away — and, more importantly, how you can better protect your personal information.


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Daniel Agnew

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