Time to uninstall the Twitter app

Twitter Is Tracking Users' Installed Apps for Ad Targeting

The company informed users of the change today via a notice that appeared in its iOS and Google Android apps. By default, the tracking is switched on, but users can choose to opt out of having the information collected. [...]

Twitter said it only collects and updates the list of apps users have installed, but that it does not collect data from within apps themselves.

"...but only because we haven't figured out how to do that," they did not add.

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18 Responses:

  1. I never used that thing anyway since I couldn't filter ads.

  2. Scott Louis says:

    Grind'r says Twitter is 1500' away and looking.

  3. Kai Ang says:

    They had to figure out how to make money with it eventually, didn't they? ;)

  4. They have the same business model they always have: extracting money from gamblers (VCs).

  5. tfb says:

    Wasn't half the point of iOS that apps should be sandboxed so they couldn't contage each other? Isn't that why we've put up with all the pain involved in getting data from one app to another? 'Knowing what other apps are installed' sounds like a serious violation of sandboxing to me.

    (Yes, I know, that wasn't the point at all.)

    • jwz says:

      I assume that the fact that Apple ships the Twitter app by default means that they are sufficiently far up each others' respective asses that Twitter doesn't have to follow the rules.

      • tfb says:

        That's the tragedy of Apple. They have a perfectly good business model: selling expensive tin to people who want computers that actually work. They don't need to snoop on stuff in iCloud to sell adverts so they could have used client-side encryption; likewise they don't need this app-snooping thing so they could have told Twitter where to get off. But they don't do any of that, of course: I guess 'not fucking your customers over' is just unthinkable as a business model now.

      • Nate says:

        Nope, no special access needed for this:

        http://www.ihasapp.com/

        Our research at SourceDNA shows Twitter is just the highest-profile app (by far) to adopt this method.

    • Nick Lamb says:

      Well neither Apple nor Google / AOSP seem to agree with you that knowing what else is installed counts as a violation of the sandbox because they both provided APIs able to do exactly this.

      I don't know what Apple will do if there's a big fuss about this, Android can retroactively decide this feature requires explicit permission and sandbox it in a future OS update. Or they can let the user isolate it, so the app thinks things are fine but the data it gets is just bogus. They've done both those things previously for features that were abused.

      • tfb says:

        I'm sure they don't think it's a violation: that's because the sandbox isn't there to provide security, it's there to provide income.

    • Nate says:

      The sandbox does protect your data in each app (modulo flaws that are occasionally found). Apps themselves aren't as sensitive because Apple wants to foster connections between them.

      The typical way these kits work is to look for data handlers associated with known URL schemas. If installed, the app is installed too. An app could always try to launch "share with instagram" and check for errors, which would still provide a similar capability.

      As long as apps can talk to each other freely, there's not too much to be done to prevent enumerating apps.

  6. I didn't even read this but just deleted the app anyway.

  7. MattyJ says:

    If you want to keep the app, you can opt out. If the 'service' hasn't been activated on your account, you're protected if you turn on the 'limit ad tracking' setting on iOS (settings->privacy->advertising)

    If it's been enabled, they have your app list already, but you can block future updates if you see the 'tailor twitter based on my apps' checkbox in the iOS app's settings.

  8. Alex says:

    You know what the problem here is? Dicky "business models" that aren't "I give you money and you do stuff". And you know why we've got those? Because they won't pay us to do stuff. Third-party business model wank is an epiphenomenon of the shitty economy.

  9. Line Noise says:

    And yet, yesterday I received an E-Mail from Twitter espousing the wondrousness of #NFL and #Thanksgiving even though the last time I set foot in North America Twitter didn't even exist.

    Hey Twitter, if you're going to track my every move at least try to target me with ads that actually mean something to me!

    • Nick Lamb says:

      Remember, you weren't the customer before and you're not the customer now. The targetting is there to persuade advertisers to give Twitter more money. Doesn't make the least difference to Twitter whether it actually works better than what they had previously so long as either the advertising agencies or their clients think it does.

      This sort of decision making (advertising placement) happens a few metres from where I sit when I have the misfortune to work in town. These aren't even technical people, they've got no idea whether what they're buying is possible, or makes any sense at all, they're evaluating it based on a handful of things they can measure imperfectly and a whole lot of gut instinct.

      And just as I'm writing this rant about how dumb online advertising is I get a reminder from the real world that things used to be so much worse - a cold caller rang my VoIP line asking for a Mr Monk. That's been happening once in a while for about a decade now. Someone out there paid actual money for a list of names and telephone numbers that's more than ten years old. It makes the Nyborg lead in Glengarry Glen Ross look like grade A stuff.

    • nooj says:

      Never forget that advertisers deliberately include ads for shit you don't want, to keep you from knowing how good they are at pegging you (pun intended).

      Previously