Here's what Twitter's weird 'data-sharing' notification really means

The change helps Twitter “continue operating as a free service."

Kacper Pempel / Reuters

Twitter is rolling back a privacy setting that allowed users to control whether or not some of their data was shared with the company’s advertisers. The company began notifying users of the change Tuesday, saying that the update will help Twitter “continue operating as a free service.”

“The control you have over what information Twitter shares with its business partners has changed,” the message says. “Specifically, your ability to control mobile app advertising measurements has been removed, but you can control whether to share some non-public data to improve Twitter’s marketing activities on other sites and apps. These changes, which help Twitter to continue operating as a free service, are reflected now in your settings.”

Twitter's updated its data sharing settings so most users can no longer opt out of data sharing with advertisers.

Prior to this update, Twitter allowed users to opt out of data sharing that enabled Twitter to tell advertisers how users interacted with ads for mobile apps, and share some “non-public” information like device identifiers. Now, most Twitter users have no choice whether or not that data is shared with Twitter’s advertisers. Those in Europe and the United Kingdom will still be able to opt out, according to the company.

Additionally, Twitter says it will now run ads for its app on Facebook and Google. Users can opt out of sharing “non-public” data — such as whether or not they installed Twitter’s app as a result of an ad — with Google and Facebook. That setting is available here, under “Share your data with Twitter’s business partners.”

In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson described the change as “part of our ongoing work around transparency and control.”

“We’re updating a data sharing setting that relates to sharing additional information with business partners, specifically to measure the effectiveness of mobile app ads on Twitter,” the spokesperson said. “This is part of our ongoing work around transparency and control. We want to ensure that people understand the settings we provide, what they do, and how to use them.”

The company likely sees the update as a necessary move to bring in more ad dollars. As The Verge points out, Twitter recently blamed issues with some of these privacy settings for missing revenue targets in 2019. And, more recently, Twitter has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has negatively affected ad revenue, despite a surge in usage.

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