- Starting June 18, Twitter will enact new opt-out privacy policies that allow the platform to share more personal information about its audience with advertisers, according to a company blog post. While Twitter will continue to withhold the names, email addresses and phone numbers of its users from third parties, it will track the locations, website visits and other smartphone apps of account holders who don't change their privacy settings.
- As the company collects new data, it also is giving users more control over the kind of user data that can be used for targeted ads. Twitter will let users indicate their personal interests among a list of categories that includes topics like "mystery and crime" and "women’s shoes."
- Twitter will hold onto the web browsing history of users who don't opt out for 30 days instead of the previous timeline of 10 days. The company can monitor website visits of users who are logged into Twitter and visit a site with a Twitter button or an embedded tweet, PCWorld said.
Twitter is facing pressure to grow amid revenue declines, job cuts and even speculation about being acquired by a deep-pocketed media company that wants a bigger share of the digital audience. However, unless Twitter can start charging users a subscription fee, its future depends on providing a service to paying advertisers that need more information about the audiences they reach and how their brand messages are placed among user-generated content.
Marketers, for their part, are craving more information like location and real-time data that could better tie together digital and physical marketing efforts, which Twitter has seemed to edge toward providing with services like the new opt-in policies and allowing businesses to reach out to nearby users through Direct Messages based on their proximity.
The latest policy change has triggered warnings and angry complaints from some Twitter users who revel in online anonymity and want their identities protected. The anger might fade as users learn to adjust the new privacy settings and see ads that have more relevance, which might boost the quality of marketing on the platform overall.
Ad placement has become a serious issue, as the boycott of Google’s YouTube has demonstrated. Major advertisers want to reach target audiences while avoiding the placement of brand messages next to extremist videos that incite violence, recruit terrorists or preach bigotry. Twitter has had its own share of controversies over trolls and extremist content, and one recent study that estimates as many as 48 million of its accounts aren't real people. If Twitter wants to be a viable marketing medium, it has to balance the needs of its advertisers with user demands for freedom of expression.