Twitter introduced a new feature Wednesday that prompts users to read links to articles before sharing them. When users try to post links without opening them, a message appears, saying “Headlines don’t tell the full story, want to read this before Retweeting?” Limited to only Android users for now, the new feature is part of a series of overhauls, including fact-checking tweets from President Trump, the company is making to support “healthy conversations.”
“It’s easy for links/articles to go viral on Twitter,” product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted alongside the announcement. “This can be powerful but sometimes dangerous, especially if people haven’t read the content they’re spreading.”
But making the feature work requires tracking that users may not be aware of. Aram Zucker-Scharff, an ad tech engineer, detailed in a Twitter thread that the platform keeps tabs on the links users click, complete with a URL and a timestamp.
Twitter collects data from users including the links in tweets that were opened, the tweet that included the links, and when it was opened. In a series of tweets after this article was initially published, Damien Kieran, Twitter’s global data protection officer, said Twitter has long collected this data, but recently began including it in the archives users can download and review. Twitter tracks whether users click on the ads they’re shown, and uses this data for advertising, but says this is separate from the Android experiment involving whether links were opened.
For that feature, Twitter confirms it keeps a log of links opened, but says this data is retained on the device for seven days, then discarded.
In April, Twitter updated the privacy settings for all users, tracking whether users clicked on ads and downloaded apps that were advertised for them. This gave advertisers more insights into how effective their ad campaigns were, but similarly required more data from users.
Updated, 6-12-20, 8:20pm ET: This article was updated to include information in Damien Kieran’s tweets, which clarify how Twitter collects and uses the data behind the new feature.
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