What does Twitter know about you and your data? How to see everything Twitter thinks about you

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Have you ever wondered why certain subjects pop up in your Twitter feed? Here’s how to find out what data Twitter stores about you – and how you can change it.

If you are someone who uses social media of any kind, it’s worth keeping personal data protection in the back of your mind.

Whether that’s making sure not to reuse the same passwords, using ad-blockers or rejecting cookies, there are plenty of things to consider as the world becomes increasingly digital.

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By even just registering for a website such as Twitter, within its terms and conditions and privacy policy you agree to its data handling practices.

A screenshot from a video posted on Tesla chief Elon Musk's Twitter account on October 26, 2022, showing him carrying a sink as he enters the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco.A screenshot from a video posted on Tesla chief Elon Musk's Twitter account on October 26, 2022, showing him carrying a sink as he enters the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco.
A screenshot from a video posted on Tesla chief Elon Musk's Twitter account on October 26, 2022, showing him carrying a sink as he enters the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco.

So if you’re looking to restrict or access the information Twitter stores on you, here’s how you can view the data and change it.

Why should I care what data Twitter collects about me?

With Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, your use of the social media platform may have dipped or you may find yourself more concerned about what data the site holds about you – especially in the wake of incidents such as Cambridge Analytica.

Internet firms and social media sites record huge amounts of information about users, from location and IP addresses to personal demographics, such as gender and age range.

On a platform like Twitter, which offers bespoke topic preferences for you to actively curate, they will also automatically record your interests based on what you engage with to then serve you with similar content you may like.

For example, if you like a tweet about a specific footballer, they may then show you more content to do with that player or their team – which could be ‘sport’ or ‘football’. Or it could be a case where you like an animal video and are then shown more content from topics which are more bizarre and vague such as ‘cute’.

Twitter’s privacy policy states they use the information collected to: “improve and personalise our products and services so that you have a better experience on Twitter, including by showing you more relevant content and ads, suggesting people and topics to follow, enabling and helping you discover affiliates, third-party apps, and services.”

The policy covers Twitter building a personalised profile on you based on your activity on the site. They also use this information to feed into Twitter’s algorithm which, as with all social media sites, wants to keep you engaged and active. However, this information is not just used for these purposes, but also sold to advertisers.

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While there has been a shake up in which advertisers will continue to utilise Twitter recently, users will receive targeted advertisements based on personal demographics or interests.

This is often why if you’re searching for a specific item to buy – such as new shoes – those adverts will follow you across websites and devices.

You can disable some of these features – and even edit the interests which Twitter’s algorithm assigns to you – but to do so, you must first view this data.

How can I view my personal data on Twitter?

Head to Settings, from there you will see a section labelled ‘Your Account’.

If you click through, you will then be presented with the option to ‘Download an archive of your data’. This will generate a ZIP file full of your activity on Twitter.

Stored within this file you will find your profile information, Tweets, Direct Messages, Moments, a list of followers, accounts you follow, your address book, inferred interest and demographic information, details about ads that you’ve seen or engaged with on Twitter and more. Be advised, this file can take more than 24 hours to prepare.

Another way you can view what Twitter thinks about you is by heading over to ‘Privacy and safety’, where you will see two sections: ‘Your Twitter activity’ and ‘Data sharing and personalisation’. This is also where you can update your privacy settings.

How can I change my Twitter personalisation settings?

If you’re looking to simply restrict receiving personalised advertisements, under the Data sharing and personalisation section you can then go to Ad preferences, where you can simply turn this setting off.

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It’s important to note that opting out of Twitter’s interest-based ads doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t see targeted advertising. For example, you may still see ads which are based on information such as what you Tweet, who you follow and the links you click on Twitter.

In this section you can also view which advertisers you’re being targeted by on Twitter through their advertiser list and also your interests which are often used to serve you content as well as ads.

To view your full list of topics and interests – which can often be the most unnerving part of viewing your personal information – navigate to ‘Content you see’ under ‘Your Twitter activity’.

Often while browsing, if Twitter recognises that you’re interacting with something repeatedly, they will offer for you to follow that particular topic – which can be anything from celebrities to sports teams.

Now the section which will offer you the most customisation is the ‘Interests’ section.

Running in alphabetical order, you can deselect items on this list to adjust what content will be shown to you. though any changes made may not come into effect immediately.

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