Anyone who has been anywhere near the media this week can't fail to have noticed that Facebook has been up to its neck in allegations about providing account information to third parties ie for use in elections and for allegedly selling data about calls and texts to companies who use this for targeted advertising and whatever else.
Now, my opinion is clear. I do not believe the personal data of any user should be given or sold to companies to use, nor put on so called mailing or advertising lists without the express permission of the user every time. By that I mean if a company wants to add you to something, a consent message should appear on the screen asking if you want this to happen and giving you the option to say no. It's my data so should I not have more of a say in how it is used online?
I've never had a Facebook account so I figured this latest scandal didn't have anything to do with me. However I do have a Twitter account that I hardly use...I'm on it on Saturdays to follow the football scores as they come in, but mostly I don't really have much time to spend on it. I don't send a lot of tweets, I never get involved in big debates there and I usually forget to tweet about my books! I started the account to connect with authors and readers but as I don't review as many free from the author books now, I've been using it less. Today I decided to really look through my account and see what I could find on privacy and third party companies and what I found surprised me.
Firstly, there was a page that had decided based on my tweets etc what my gender and age was and had ticked a whole pile of supposed interests that they thought I had. I have no idea what they were doing as they had me down as a man aged 13-54 or over 65, with an interest in NBA basketball, air travel, comics, computer networking, mobile, romance and arts and crafts. Yeah right. I hate basketball, I don't know one end of a computer from another, I have no passport, I hate romance and art, I never read comics and don't own a mobile phone. Plus I'm female. Dead accurate that was.
Then I discovered this. If you go to Settings, then Your Twitter Data and scroll down until you see Tailored Audiences. I read this:
Tailored audiences are often built from email lists or browsing behaviours. They help advertisers reach prospective customers or people who have already expressed interest in their business
You are currently part of 67 audiences from 42 advertisers.
OK this was news to me! I always opt out of this kind of thing where a choice is given because I'm not in a data sharing habit for privacy and security. I clicked on the Request advertiser list button and it was emailed straight to me. I got a big surprise when I saw the pdf document. There was a page of advertisers that had included me in their lists. I only recognised a few that I had made contact with.
But here is the disturbing part. At the start of the second page there was a message that said 'Twitter has included you in one or more audiences that are similar to tailored audiences for the advertisers below'. WHAT??? I never gave permission for that! There are EIGHT more pages of advertisers that Twitter decided to give my details to and I'm bloody mad! It cheerfully tells me that I can stop seeing the tailored ads they send if I opt out of interest based advertising on the site but that these companies will still hold my data! That is so not acceptable to me!!!
So Twitter have actually given my data to 432 twitter contacts including Air France, Arabic FBS (Arabic broker???) Barclays, Betfair, CiscoRussia, Honda, Hilton, ispygolfpro, The SIMS (???), UberIndia, NikeBrasil, Kim Kardashian (WTF is THAT all about???) and believe it or not, realDonaldTrump (you are seriously having a giraffe here).
This is really beyond a joke. It goes to show we truly have NO idea where our data is going and who it is being shared with, however vigilant we try to be. I am cancelling my Twitter account today and will be free of it in 30 days. I'll concentrate on my blog and Goodreads instead. Be aware of this issue if you think your data is safe!