Twitter has announced support for a feature in the Firefox web browser called “Do Not Track.” The feature allows you to opt out of allowing websites to track your personal data or your activities on those websites.
This marks a very different approach to user data than that employed by Facebook, which goes public today valued in the billions thanks in large part to its accumulation of user data.
Most web browsers use small applications called “cookies” to track information about the person browsing on them and transmit it to the website they’re viewing. This information can be used by the people who run that website to target ads, change the experience, or just collect usage data. The cookies usually cease transmitting any new data once users leave the website, though.
The Do Not Track feature in Firefox prevents the cookies from collecting and sending this information, but it requires the acquiescence of the website to function. Twitter just opted in to that. For businesses and brands on Twitter, this may have long-term consequences if it’s an indication of a trend in Twitter’s attitudes.
Competing social network Facebook treats most of its users (those who simply hold personal profiles) as the product it sells to its true customers — businesses and brands with advertising dollars to spend. It mines personal data about interests, relationships, and activity to make its ads more effective in theory. It definitely does not support Do Not Track.
But Twitter is clearly keeping its focus on the general users here, forgoing the Facebook model of monetizing user data in favor of something all together different. For a business or a brand, this might mean less accuracy and comprehensiveness in any future targeted ad programs that Twitter might offer.