Understanding Twitter’s Privacy Settings

Understanding Twitter’s Privacy Settings

Social networks have a complex web of privacy settings. Today, we’ll take a look at Twitter’s and how each will impact you.

Who can reply to your tweets?

Twitter recently added a feature to give you control over who can reply directly to your tweets and engage in the conversation under them. There are three options: Everyone, People you follow, and Only people you mention. Everyone and People you follow are pretty self-explanatory; Only people you mention is the most restrictive. It means that if you tag accounts in your tweet, they’ll be the only ones able to reply. This applies to every Tweet. Even if you set a Tweet to “People you follow” anyone you also mention can reply.

Screenshot of a new Tweet window.
Tweet text: "Only @techfortheppl can reply to this tweet, but everyone can see it!"

There is a dropdown open with the text: "Who can reply? Choose who can reply to this Tweet. Anyone mentioned can always reply."
There are three options under the text: Everyone. People you follow. Only people you mention.

Only people you mention is checked.
Only @techfortheppl can reply to this tweet.

It’s important to note that anyone can still Quote Tweet a tweet where you’ve locked down the settings.

Private accounts

Unlike Facebook, your entire Twitter account is either public or private. With a private account, people who you haven’t approved to follow you will only see your profile picture, cover photo, the description you’ve given yourself, location (if you’ve set one) and your follower/following count. You’ll also have a lock icon next to your name.

Screenshot of Twitter profile.
The cover image is a black cat with white around its neck and nose looking up.
The profile photo is a person with a dog.
Chris Garaffa (lock icon)
Web geek & technologist. They/them. Editor @techfortheppl. Hear me Tuesdays on @bamnecessary, randomly on other @SputnikInt radio shows. Member @pslweb.
New Haven, CT. techforthepeople.org. Joined Janaury 2007.
3,442 Following. 1,374 Followers.

To lock your account, go to Settings, Privacy and safety, Audience and tagging, and check the Protect your Tweets box.

After locking your Twitter account, it’s very important to keep in mind that anyone who’s already following you will still continue to follow you!

Twitter Pro Tip:
If you want someone to unfollow you, go to their profile and Block them. You can even quickly Unblock them so you can still see their tweets – but they won’t be following you and you won’t be following them. Importantly, won’t get a notification about it.

Other Privacy Settings

In this section, we’ll go through some of the most important items in your Twitter account settings. These are generally labeled the same on the website, iOS and Android apps.

There’s a lot here! Take some time to go through each screen and adjust based on your preferences and desired privacy level.

Security and account access – Security

Two-factor authentication
You should have two-factor authentication on. We’ll come back to 2FA in another article this month!

Password reset protect: Turn this on. It will help protect your account by requiring you to verify your phone or email address when resetting your password.

Security and account access – Apps and sessions

Connected apps
Click through this list and see if there are apps or websites you’ve hooked up to your Twitter account that you don’t use anymore — or that you don’t recognize. The fewer accounts that have access to your account, the fewer risk you have of data being stolen or leaked. To remove a connected app, click it then click the red Revoke access button.

This list shows where your Twitter account is logged in, or recently has been. If there’s a computer, phone or tablet you don’t recognize here or don’t have anymore, click it and click the “Log out the device shown” button. If you didn’t recognize the device, it would also be a good idea to change your password now, too.

Privacy and Safety – Audience and tagging

Protect your Tweets
We talked about this one above To make it so only your followers can see your Tweets, check this box.

Photo tagging
When someone else uploads a photo on Twitter, they can tag other accounts, which will automatically be linked in that person’s tweets. Turn this off to prevent people from tagging you in photos.

Privacy and Safety – Your Tweets

Add location information to your Tweets
Do your Tweets show the city or neighborhood in? If this is a privacy concern for you, consider turning this off. You can also click the “Remove all location information attached to your tweets” button to change this for everything you’ve ever posted.

Privacy and Safety – Content You See

In this section, you can see some of what Twitter thinks is interesting to you. It gathers this information from a number of indicators, including what you tweet, who and what you interact with on the site and – unless you’ve turned it off – your activity on other websites. Click through Topics and Interests and you can turn items off, meaning Twitter will show you less related content automatically.

Privacy and Safety – Direct Messages

Allow message requests from everyone
You might consider turning this off if you don’t want people who don’t follow you to be able to send you messages. This can be useful in cases of harassment.

Filter low-quality messages
Twitter will automatically try to determine if a message is too much like spam. They don’t specify how they do this – what factors are considered “low-quality.” If you receive a lot of junk DMs, you can try turning this off.

Show read receipts
If you want people to know that you’ve seen their message, turn this on. Otherwise, turn it off. This is helpful if you’re dealing with people you don’t know and don’t want them to see when you’ve read their messages.

Privacy and Safety – Discoverability and contacts

You have to give Twitter your email address, and in most cases they require a phone number. But you can use the settings here to choose whether people can enter your contact info on Twitter and find you.

Privacy and Safety – Ads Preferences

Personalized ads
Twitter explains this pretty clearly: You will always see ads (and Twitter will learn about your interests from your engagement with ads), but turning this off will prevent Twitter from serving personalized or hyper-targeted ads to you.

Privacy and Safety – Off-Twitter activity

Allow use of where you see Twitter content across the Web
This is where surveillance gets interesting. Websites that integrate various Twitter features – embedding Tweets in their content, letting you log in with your Twitter accounts, and other features that you might not even see – also provide Twitter with information about what sites you’re visiting and using. Unchecking this box prevents Twitter from at least using this information to target you for ads.

Personalize based on your inferred identity
What’s an inferred identity? Even if you’re not logged in to Twitter (and this is true for Facebook) they use a myriad of digital signals – the device you’re on, the browser you use, where you are and many, many more – to attach information to a profile they hold on you. Uncheck this box.

Privacy and Safety – Data sharing with business partners

Allow additional information sharing with business partners
There’s no need for Twitter to share your information with anyone else. Turn this off.

Other settings

That’s a lot of privacy settings! There are others that we didn’t cover here, but you can click through and see if they’ll help you improve your Twitter experience.

As always, remember that Twitter still tracks what you’re doing, who you’re talking to, what you’re liking and retweeting and what ads you click on. A private account helps prevent non-followers from seeing your posts, but nothing here prevents someone from taking a screenshot and sharing, or from Twitter sharing content with law enforcement.