While privacy seems like a concept lost on Facebook, Twitter is showing that it understands its users’ need for security by supporting Mozilla Firefox’s “Do Not Track” feature, a day before Facebook is set to raise billions in its IPO.
Federal Trade Commission CTO Ed Felten announced Twitter’s adoption of the feature today during a panel at Internet Week New York, the New York Times reports. Naturally, Twitter confirmed the news via a tweet.
Firefox users will now be able to enable the “Do No Track” feature — which lets you opt out of cookies that track personal data and online movements — when viewing Twitter’s website. Most Twitter users interact with the service via its site, but it’s unclear if Twitter will be offering any additional privacy features for users of its mobile and desktop apps. We’ve dropped a line into the company for further clarification.
Ironically, the company also announced this afternoon that it will personalize suggestions on who to follow, even if you’ve never used Twitter before. To do so, Twitter will take advantage of cookies within your web browser, though it won’t work if you have Do Not Follow enabled. The company says it will also explain to users how their suggestions are being personalized, and there will be other ways to disable the feature.
The FTC has been pushing businesses to adopt a “Do Not Track” privacy option since it released a major report in March. Twitter’s support gives the FTC’s position even more weight, and it will likely lead to many other businesses making a point of privacy. Anti-virus company AVG announced in March that it was adding a Do Not Track option to its software. (And I’m sure some businesses will adopt Do Not Track just to spite Facebook’s sure-to-be obscenely successful IPO.)
“We’re excited that Twitter now supports Do Not Track and global user adoption rates continue to increase, which signifies a big step forward for Do Not Track and the Web,” wrote Alex Fowler, head of Mozilla’s privacy and public policy, in a blog post today. He pointed out that 8.6 percent of Firefox desktop users, and 19 percent of Firefox mobile users, are using the browser’s Do Not Track feature.
Given that so much of Facebook’s business is based on tracking user data — even if you’re logged out of the social network — I don’t suspect we’ll see it jump on board the Do Not Track movement. Twitter’s support of the feature also clearly shows the difference between the two companies — Facebook wants to know everything about you, while Twitter is focused on being a communication service.
Twitter has been on a role with kudos-worthy announcements lately. The company unveiled the Innovator’s Patent Agreement last month, which keeps control of patents in the hands of engineers and designers, and is a declaration that Twitter can’t use them for offensive patent lawsuits.