I saw you wrote about how Windows 10 secretly tracks my location, which makes me mad, but does Twitter do the same thing?
In a world where we all want our programs to be smart and location aware so we can say “where’s the closest gas station” and have it know we’re in Kalispell, Montana, not Schenectady, New Jersey or Mountain View, California, the price we pay for this convenience is that every app now knows where you are. While most are pretty straightforward about it – like a map program — some do save a history of your locations so they can figure out your “stomping ground” and customize your experience.
One culprit is Windows 10, as I wrote about here: Does Windows 10 Keep Track of Location? but the more you dig into it, the more I suspect that you’ll find apps that also build up a record of your traffic. One of which is, as you suspect, Twitter.
Interestingly, it’s only recently that Twitter let us users see that data is being collected and stored, so it’s a curious question as to how long that’s been happening behind the scenes. But the past is, well, the past, so let’s focus on the here and now.
Jump onto your Twitter account then choose “Settings and privacy” from the menu on the top right and you’ll move to a page with a ton of options. Choose “Your Twitter data” from the options on the left side:
Since this is a lot of fairly personal data, Twitter will actually ask you to confirm your account password. Something I always appreciate, actually!
Assuming you know your password — you do, right? — you’ll end up here:
This isn’t the interesting part, however, though it’s cool to see when you first signed in to Twitter. Looks like I’m coming up on my 10 year anniversary in a few months!
Where things get interesting is when you scroll down a ways and realize that Twitter’s algorithm to figure things out might be a bit, um, quirky:
I speak some Spanish, but Tagalog? Basque? I have no idea how Twitter has ascertained I speak those languages. And if Twitter thinks that, what other sites peg me as a Tagalog and Basque speaker? (the combination must be pretty rare. Too bad I don’t speak either). Fortunately this particular data point can be fixed with a click on “Edit”.
Scrolling a bit further, we finally get to location information:
For the record, Twitter-bot, I haven’t actually been physically in Seattle for a couple of years. Again, no idea how that got onto the list, but the fact that Twitter has a list in the first place is rather shocking. Who knew??
What’s potentially upsetting is that you can remove the current history log, but you can’t disable this feature on Twitter, as far as I can see. There’s no “stop tracking me” or “stop storing location data” option. So while you can opt to pop into this area of settings and clear things occasionally, I imagine some people might want to carefully consider whether they want to use a social network that tracks and stores your location history as you move around. Then again, what other sites are doing this even as we speak? Hmm….
Note: If you do stick with Twitter after this revelation, why not follow me? I post tons of fun stuff every single day: @DaveTaylor