But, how come that’s possible?
In fact, Twitter has rolled out a feature called “Personalization” that allows them to suggest you Twitter people to follow based on the websites that you have visited. According to the Twitter’s blog, they describe the service with the following wording:
These tailored suggestions are based on accounts followed by other Twitter users and visits to websites in the Twitter ecosystem. 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.
Personally, I kind of like the mention of other popular online platforms, as if they meant “Look, guys, everybody’s doing it, so why can’t we?”. Truth be told, yes, everybody’s tracking you. But did you know that it’s just a matter of visiting a website that has those platform’s sharing plugins? Do you know that you don’t have to actually click on those sharing buttons so as to be tracked? I didn’t, and I bet a lot of people out there didn’t either.
But this is kind of huge database. Have you ever noticed any “recent” websites that don’t come with some kind of “tweet it” button? (or other platforms, this isn’t limited to twitter)? I bet there’s a very few probabilities you haven’t.
How can you prevent yourself from being tracked via Twitter?
At least, you can opt-out of being tracked. Open your Twitter account via a web browser – don’t even think about using your favorite Twitter app, you have to go the Twitter way, via their web interface. Click on your Twitter settings page, then un-tick the “Personalization” option where it says “Tailor Twitter based on my recent website visits” as you can see from the screenshot below
At the beginning of this article, I bet you thought that browsing some sites that have some twitter sharing widget is “safe enough” so long as you don’t use the button. Now, you know this isn’t true. It’s up to you to update your Twitter settings if you want to disable Twitter tracking.
Please notice that this article only dealt with how to disable Twitter tracking, but I guess the same applies to all those popular sharing/social media plugins that most websites are using now. Not surfing those websites isn’t an option, but you can’t find out if those steps have those tracking features unless you visited them, so this is a chicken and egg situation that still need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis although some “standards” like “Do-Not-Track” features are now implemented, not everybody has adopted it yet (do they have any motivation to adopt it? That’s another question).