Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Advertising Privacy Social Networks Twitter

Twitter Will Track Your Browsing To Sell Ads 120

Posted by timothy
from the awareness-is-key dept.
jfruh writes "Remember how social networks were going to transform the advertising industry because they'd tailor ads not to context or to your web browsing history, but to the innate preferences you express through interactions and relationships with friends? Well, that didn't work with Facebook, and it turns out it's not working with Twitter either. The microblogging site has announced that it's getting into the ad retargeting game: you'll soon start seeing promoted tweets that are chosen based on websites you've visited in the past. The innovation, if you can call it that, is that the retargeting will work across devices, so you can be looking at a website on your phone and see promoted tweets on your laptop's browser, or vice versa."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Twitter Will Track Your Browsing To Sell Ads

Comments Filter:
  • by middlemen (765373) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:54AM (#45649745) Homepage
    I have a genuine question. Assuming one uses Twitter from the phone, how does one prevent the Twitter app on the phone to scan the browsing history ? If they cannot scan my browsing history they cannot give me ads.

    On another note, if there are companies who can scan tweets (such as stocktwits) to give you sentiment analysis, why cant Twitter do the same ? Have they realized that they just have a bunch of web developers who know only Javascript and can't do text processing using it ?
    • On another note, if there are companies who can scan tweets (such as stocktwits) to give you sentiment analysis, why cant Twitter do the same ? Have they realized that they just have a bunch of web developers who know only Javascript and can't do text processing using it ?

      Even more so because Twitter has direct access to their databases while all other developers must work through the Twitter API. Don't get me wrong: It's nice, but if you need to analyze massive amounts of data, it can be slow to transfer

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by brunes69 (86786)

      This isn't even a permission an App can request on Android. Not sure about iOS.

      This is not how Twitter is going to do this anyway. They are doing it via the little "Twitter" links everywhere on the web. These will track your page views, and then the instant you sign into your twitter account on that browser, they will know every page you visited. It is no different than how Google knows the pages you visited.

      You can block it in two ways... either a) never sign into twitter in your browser unless in Incognit

      • Google Chrome allows easy creation and switching of user profiles.

        I've wondered whether I should have a separate profile for each social site as a way to isolate them.

        I turn off 3rd party cookies, but I heard that there was an exclusion for sites that you had logged into and received cookies from.

        Meaning, 3rd-party ad site could not send you cookies, but Facebook still could if you'd signed in to it earlier.

        More drastic isolation of browser instances is another option (I've wondered about sandboxie
        • by Wootery (1087023)

          I wonder if browser profiles would be enough.

          One also has to worry about things like Evercookie [wikipedia.org]. I'd like to think browser-profiles are built to defeat EverCookie, but whether they actually do I don't know.

          • Flash can store its cookies cross-profile, and even cross-browser.

            • by Wootery (1087023)

              I should have mentioned it explicitly, but that was part of my point: do browser not take this into account?

              Do they scramble/lie about supported fonts? If they're serious about this stuff, they should.

              Clearing cookies is nowhere near enough to hide the identity of your browser/computer.

        • by mlts (1038732) * on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @11:01AM (#45650429)

          I use sandboxie, and find it well worth using. With additional "supercookies" and methods to save state, having all Web browser data saved on a different volume, and is completely purged when done, no matter how many hidden files are written, is a good method of protecting privacy. Doesn't take much doing either. One can force a browser to run in a sandbox, or just right-click on it, select "run in sandbox", pick the sandbox you want it in, and go.

          This is also coupled with "click to play" for Flash or other stuff, and using AdBlock for an extension, so the browser doesn't have to deal with most of the nasty stuff.

          I also run a different browser for banking that I do general browsing. The more separation, the better.

          People firewall their computers, might as well have a layer of security (sandbox or VM) against untrusted code that hits their machines directly.

          • Although it may be good enough for stopping Twitter, the trouble with Sandboxie is that it still relies on Windows, which cannot be trusted for other reasons. IMO, if you're going to the trouble of sandboxing everything anyway, you might as well just skip straight to Qubes OS [qubes-os.org].

            • by mlts (1038732) *

              There is always the next step up -- a VM. It sounds like a lot of pointless steps, but with VMWare's Unity, the Web browser appears as another application on the taskbar, except marked with a color around it.

              I do agree sandboxing might take a little bit of work, but it isn't that much for the protection gained. Similar with a VM. Even when not in VMWare's Unity mode, it is just a window to click on.

              Long term, this complete sandboxing functionality should be in the OS. BSD's jail(), SELinux, AppArmor, an

              • There is always the next step up -- a VM.... Long term, this complete sandboxing functionality should be in the OS.

                Did you read my post? Running everything in (separate) VMs is exactly the point of Qubes OS, with the advantage (compared to Windows or VMWare) of being Free Software.

                • by mlts (1038732) *

                  Yes, Qubes is useful. I was pointing out how to accomplish a fraction of the security of said OS with existing tools.

                  In a perfect world (i.e. no installed base), that would be how all desktop operating systems would be. The ideal would be a type 1 hypervisor, a backend deduplicated filesystem, copy on write capabilities, and so on. Someone fires off their office suite in one VM, save a file to a shared directory only visible to that VM and the mail client VM, and so on. Essentially not just virtualizing

                  • Yes, Qubes is useful. I was pointing out how to accomplish a fraction of the security of said OS with existing tools.

                    Oh, okay. I was under the impression that Qubes was "existing" (I've seen people on Slashdot claim to use it, but haven't tried it myself). It does have a version labeled "release" on its download page, so I assume it's at least somewhat usable...

          • It doesn't matter, they can connect the separate sandbox sessions through the login credentials you use at various sites, credentials that are universally tied to an email address. Unless you use a different email address with every separately sandboxed app, you're wasting your time.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @11:14AM (#45650537)

        This isn't even a permission an App can request on Android. Not sure about iOS.

        There is, actually. READ_HISTORY_BOOKMARKS [android.com]

          To prevent apps from using this (and other permissions) download something like App Ops [google.com] or root your device and use XPrivacy [google.com].

      • You can block it in two ways... either a) never sign into twitter in your browser unless in Incognito mode, or b) Block third-party cookies and trackers using Ad Block. I do the latter.

        The first method would still allow Twitter to build a "shadow profile." It may not be explicitly linked to your Twitter ID, but it's still just as identifiable. Therefore, only your second suggestion is an actual solution, in my opinion.

        • by brunes69 (86786)

          I don't see how. Nothing is retained in Incognito mode. Every time you launch it you have a totally new profile.

          The only way they could build said "shadow profile" is based on IP. But they can't tie the IP to a given twitter user name if you never sign into twitter on that device.

          • I don't see how. Nothing is retained in Incognito mode. Every time you launch it you have a totally new profile.

            You make the implicit assumption that you're relaunching often, which may not always be the case (especially if you're using it all the time, instead of only occasionally).

            The only way they could build said "shadow profile" is based on IP. But they can't tie the IP to a given twitter user name if you never sign into twitter on that device.

            1. Point 1: The Twitter user name is probably the least impor
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by roscocoltran (1014187)
            The IP is not the only way to identify a browser.

            try this link and cry:
            how unique is your browser [eff.org]

            I talk smart, but my nerd resolution of 2400x1920 gives 15 bits of identifying identification, and firefiox ESR give 10.

            "Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 3,665,195 tested so far."

            in fact disabling cookies makes your browser more unique. Add the timezone, the fonts, the plugins and your browser quickly becomes more and more unique.
            • by brunes69 (86786)

              I think you are missing the point. If they can't tie this profile to my Twitter handle then frankly I could care less if they build said profile.

              Anonymous profiles do not cause a privacy issue, at least not for me. It's irrelevant to me.

              Furthermore - this profile is just based on little more than the plugins I have installed and my resolution. I would be willing to wager quite a large sum that the combination of those things is far from unique to myself.

              • If they can't tie this profile to my Twitter handle

                If you go to Twitter, Twitter can certainly tie that profile to your Twitter handle.

            • My screen resolution reads as "no javascript" :-)

              Almost all identifying information comes from the User Agent and HTTP_ACCEPT headers. Each "no javascript" adds 1.74 bits of data (which tells me that quite a few visitors of that site disable JS, but still most don't).

              Enabling JavaScript made me unique (mostly due to browser plugins and system fonts which each provided more than 20 bits of identification).

            • Gee, I'm using Opera Next on a non-retina MacBook Pro... and I'm considered unique among a paltry 3.6M samples. On a site that's *extremely* likely to be visited primarily by Firefox users.

              As a long time Opera user, this does not surprise me at all. I cleared my 'browsing data' for the last hour and tried again... a 50% reduction in uniqueness! Huzzah ;)

      • I use a squid proxy configured with a list of ad-and-tracking sites to block. There's also privoxy, which is made for that. If you've got a lot of computers and other devices or a whole family to protect, central filtering on the home server-router is easier than maintaining multiple adblock installs plus filters on android tablets, phones and iStuff.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I don't use Twitter, so I'm not sure ... but I've got AdBlockPlus on my phone.

      But this is just one of the many reasons why I'm not interested in Twitter, and have most of my browsers well equipped with cookie blockers, script blockers, and a raft of stuff to keep things like this away from me.

      I have no desire to help advertisers and the like collect more information. And I'm certainly not going to provide it if I can avoid it.

      Maybe they can sell me targeted ads for tinfoil or something. ;-)

    • They know every website you've visited that has a "Tweet" or "Follow Me" button on it, so could easily target ads based on that - doesn't involved reading your browser history at all.

      • And this is true even if you don't have a twitter account or use Twitter. It is just in that case they don't know anything about you.

        This is why I redirect facebook in my hostsini. looks like I should do the same with the other icon providers. Although I block ads anyway.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I have a genuine question. Assuming one uses Twitter from the phone, how does one prevent the Twitter app on the phone to scan the browsing history ? If they cannot scan my browsing history they cannot give me ads.

      1 - Set up a vnc connection from your phone to your home computer.
      2 - At home, run Twitter on a virtual machine with no other app installed. (The virtual machine has its own wifi through an usb dongle never used for anything else)
      3 - Crack a neighbor wifi and connect to the internet through it.
      4 - Connect the virtual machine to one paid and one free vpn services. (passing through your neighbor's AP).
      5 - Once you've got that set up, connect to your contact in a country with no extradition treaty with your ow

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        In case someone is humor impaired, I feel the need to say that the previous post was a joke.

        Obviously you shouldn't crack your neighbor's wifi.

        You need to drive around the city cracking a different wifi for each tweet.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I poke my eye.
      Doctor: Don't poke your eye.

    • by Walterk (124748)

      Use a third party application (while you can). They don't have the promoted tweets and the like. For Android I recommend TweetLanes [google.com]

    • by surmak (1238244)
      Request Policy [requestpolicy.com]
    • Here's how (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      According to Twitter's official post regarding this:
      "While we want to make our ads more useful through tailored audiences, we also want to provide simple and meaningful privacy choices to our users. Twitter users can simply uncheck the box next to “Promoted content” in their privacy settings, and Twitter will not match their account to information shared by our ads partners for tailoring ads. And because Twitter supports Do Not Track (DNT), Twitter will not receive browser-related information (a

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      I have a genuine question. Assuming one uses Twitter from the phone, how does one prevent the Twitter app on the phone to scan the browsing history

      Use an iPhone. Stop being the product.

      You're worried about apps reading your browsing history because you are the product, not the customer. Stop buying products who's main selling point is the free OS someone else gave them until you realize why they gave them the free OS in the first place.

      • by TheP4st (1164315)
        The type of tracking in question have nothing to do with what OS you use as it is done via those little social media links that are present all over on nearly every damn website of a reasonably large size.

        Use an iPhone. Stop being the product.

        Use CyanogenMod. Stop being the product or a tool.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't use Twitter? Life will still go on.

    • For users who bristle at the thought of another Internet company tracking them, Twitter offered a few options. Users can uncheck the box next to "promoted content" in their privacy settings and Twitter will not match their account to information shared by its partners for tailoring ads, Twitter said...

      This should be THE solution if people don't want to be track but...

      The company did not say, however, whether it would still hold on to users' data for other purposes.

      that I'm not surprised so.. just browse in

    • >> Remember how social networks were going to transform the advertising industry because they'd tailor ads not to context or to your web browsing history, but to the innate preferences you express through interactions and relationships with friends

      The major of online advertising spend is based on URLs and Keywords. And a "content network" campaign (URL-based) is already hard enough to set up.

      Now I have to design my marketing strategy for online medical certifications based on (is a republican) (upper

  • by turkeydance (1266624) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @09:54AM (#45649753)
    and it still works, too.
  • I mean, what happens when 95% of promoted tweets are about porn?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Imagine what could be accomplished if instead of pushing more ads that Twatter actually did something useful. All these black holes of brain power and yet nothing beneficial coming out of them. What a waste...

  • I'm sure glad they don't do that on Slashdot.

    (Note for troll-happy moderators: the above is what we call a "joke". The giveaway is that it includes a common comedic construct we call "irony". Please note that a joke doesn't have to be particularly what we call "funny" to still qualify as such, as illustrated by this example. YMMV.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Into my DNS blocklist with all your domains!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This type of tracking is simple to prevent. Disallow access to any uniquely identifiable information from 3rd parties when on a domain. It can be implemented in any ad blocker, or other plugin for a browser. It really should be the default settings in browsers. I really must question the motivations of the open source foundations when they are assisting in large scale tracking of users and assisting in hiding it.

    Its almost like they are run by the NSA.

  • and that the main problem with adverts they are using history and history is to late, as most people have moved on to otherthings.

    Now prediction advertising....

  • by kisrael (134664) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:25AM (#45650047) Homepage

    Man, there's an err of pathos to when similar strategies are applied elsewhere, somehow Youtube noticed I went to a standing desk site, now half my adverts are from there. And also, they don't notice when I've actually bought a damn thing, so more advertising is just down the drain... I guess advertising is such a small % game that they'll take whatever "bump" they can get, no matter how stupid they look.

    • by hubie (108345)
      I was looking for some information on the Caché scripting language, and now a lot of my banner ads are for the women's clothing retailer of the same name.
    • by Megane (129182)
      What happened to the good old days when advertising meant something was merely "sponsored by" a company, rather than a company trying to get up to your face, wave their arms around, and shout loudly in your ear?
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday December 10, 2013 @10:47AM (#45650279) Homepage

    If you are not running with adblock on your browsers you deserve to have this crap happen to you. ALL websites need to be treated as hostile (Slashdot included) and you need to run browser extensions that disable and protect you from this crud. Adblock, redirect protectors, privacy reclaimers, etc...

    And if you are a good computer person you install all this stuff on every computer you touch.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fbobraga (1612783)

      And if you are a good computer person you install all this stuff on every computer you touch.

      But not in phones...

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Sadly the phones lack in this regard. Firefox and Chrome on phones are incapable of protecting you. But you can use a blocking hosts file if you jailbreak/root your phone.

  • I remember when cable TV started and there were no ads. You paid a small about every month and you had the blissful ad free environment. We all knew it wouldn't last and that ads would be back at full strength again. That's just the way it works. Get you in on promises of a better experience, then later on change the terms. Do these internet titans have anything better to do with their colossal revenue other than sink it into more ways to see what we do, simply to sell it to advertisers. Twitter was a darli
    • by Megane (129182)

      I remember when cable TV started in the US, it was merely a way not to have to fuck around with an antenna and rotator and still get a crappy signal. The "cable-only" channels came later in the early '80s, but only the "movie" channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) didn't have ads. Must be a difference in how cable TV started in the UK, I suppose.

      I've been happily back to antenna for over a decade, especially since it went digital. (It works as long as you don't care to watch live sports, which are mostly on cable

  • This is the beginning of the end, much more than the end of the beginning, for Twitter. How sad I may find it - I DO think that this sort of ultra-commercial moves will induce a company that was, until recently, a start-up, to be technology conservator rather than an innovator. Interesting times at Twitter are over....
  • ...you'll soon start seeing promoted tweets that are chosen based on websites you've visited in the past.

    No,I won't. I stopped looking at twitter when they started creating fake tweets from advertisers that I couldn't shut off or stop "following", in twitspeak.

    And Yahoo Groups has started mixing advertisements in with the group messages as if they were part of the group content.

    • Ads in twitter? I don't see any of this. I don't use a general web browser for twitter at all though. FB on the other hand, I do see "suggested posts", and I don't use a browser there either. So it's certainly possible but I've not seen it yet on twitter.
  • Google does this to the worst extent. Even if i didn't search for a website, it still some how knows exactly what websites I've been visiting. Every time I buy something online, I start getting advertisements for that exact product, from the company I just bought it from, across Google search pages and on Googles ads on other webpages. How they think this "targeted advertising works" is beyond me. First of all, if I know I like something already I don't need an advertisement. Second of all, I just bought st
  • Do most people use the twitter app and web page? I guess for *sending* tweets, but I rarely do that.. Mostly, they're sent to me as IMs, that I browse in the Messages app.

  • Yaaah!

"It is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them." -- Alfred Adler

Working...