One of the first things you’ll see right after signing up for microblogging service Twitter is screen after screen of people Twitter suggests you should follow. This service modification comes right after Twitter announced that it will offer its users an option to opt out of tracking their online actions.
This change is probably welcome news to users confronted with a suggestion they follow Justin Bieber when they aren’t even fans of the mop-topped teen pop idol. The new suggestion engine comes up with its choices based on who other users follow within the Twitter system. The new system also factors in how other Twitter users interact with sites that have Twitter widgets or buttons integrated.
This is the core of the tracking system Twitter is letting users opt out of. Regardless of where you are on the Net, if you land on a page with a Twitter widget or button, Twitter is tracking you for its user suggestion system. Talk about creeping the heck out of users who are vigilant about their privacy. Thankfully, Twitter allows users to opt out and this has made the CTO of the Federal Trade Commission issue a favorable statement regarding this responsible move.
Apparently, Twitter wants to do achieve the same all seeing and pervasive user data mining paradigm that Facebook, in a much publicized and highly embarrassing earlier instance, tried to institute. It looks like Twitter learned from Facebook’s privacy faux pas and really sidestepped a lot of unnecessary drama by giving users a voice in Twitter’s tracking strategy.
The choice, as with Facebook’s earlier attempts, is whether users will forego a measure of privacy in exchange for personalization. If you use Firefox, you can easily avail of Twitter’s Do Not Track feature.