Twitter Knows What You Did Last Summer

Twitter knows everything about you. Sort of. If twitter knows as much about you as it does about me it’s very likely got a few things right, and a bunch of things wrong.

Twitter thinks I’m interested in Ava DuVernay (I’m a fan), books and literature, which matches some of my personal interests. And then Big Data, Brands, Digital, Leadership, Travel, Books, Technology, so far so good!

But Twitter also got a lot wrong – it thinks I’m also interested in Automotive news (I’ve never owned a car), Baseball and MLB – um no, Soccer, Coca-cola, Fashion (barely), Office 365 and Uber. Also a whole bunch of presumably famous people that I would have to look up to find out why I am interested in them, I’m a bit hopeless on famous people. The whole thing is a bit like reading your horoscope, 25% me going “oh yes, that’s me” and 75% me going “so much no”.

You can check what twitter knows about you by going to “Settings and privacy” > “Your Twitter data” > “Interest and ads data.”

I’ve turned off the option to share my interests with partners because I’m a bit paranoid about data sharing and Twitter already annoys me with their notifications. But it doesn’t seem to go well, Vox reporter Emily Stewart shows the interests that came up for her, including family status, salary estimate and gender.

How does Twitter figure out these interests – I think mainly via tracking cookies that are picking up on my search terms, I admit I may have searched a few football/soccer related articles.

What does twitter do with them? Apparently throws that data into an algorithm to deduce the demographics to create those groups that interest advertisers. If that freaks you out, you can opt out of it.

The big platforms, including Twitter, tell us that more relevant ads will be Good For Us, in fact they’re good for the advertisers in the sense that sales rise. Harvard researchers found that when the viewer was aware of the techniques used to increased the relevancy of those ads, and judged the methods as “creepy” ad effectiveness declined. It’s a reaction I’ve noted in myself, and probably what led me to stop following brands on Facebook and to turn off the ad customisation options on Twitter in the first place.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay