Twitter Has Some Big Privacy Changes It Would Like to Test on You

Twitter Has Some Big Privacy Changes It Would Like to Test on You
Photo: ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP, Getty Images

In an effort to get more people onboard with their whole sharing-intimate-thoughts-and-opinions-with-strangers-on-the-internet thing, Twitter plans to trial a host of new features that will allow for greater privacy customisation.

The functions, which give users more control over who sees what, when, and how, are based on internal company research that suggests certain people are reticent to tweet because they’re uncomfortable with who can view or follow them, according to a report from Bloomberg.

“When social privacy needs are not met, people limit their self-expression,” a researcher at Twitter, Svetlana Pimkina, said. “They withdraw from the conversation.” Thus the new tools are designed to keep users feeling safe and, therefore, engaged.

When reached for comment by Gizmodo, Twitter said that some of the features will be rolled out as soon as next week. Others are only at a conceptual stage.

Soon, you may be able to:

  • Hide tweets you’ve liked. Similar to Facebook’s privacy settings for posts, the new feature would allow users to adjust who gets to see what tweets you’ve liked. The categories for this would be: everybody, your followers (which you can approve if you have a private account), or certain groups. It’s not clear when this feature will be tested.
  • Remove followers. Currently, the only way to get rid of an unwanted follower is to block them. Well, Twitter plans to roll out a follower removal feature later this month — allowing you to boot undesirable account stans at will. This could be a pretty useful feature, considering how many accounts suffer from what are basically hate-follows — users who attach themselves to an account just to troll or creep. Let the banishments begin.
  • When a conversation becomes terrible or toxic, you can peace out. You may soon also be able to leave conversations that you don’t want to be in anymore. In other words, you’ll be able to unmention yourself, which will untag a link to your profile within the conversation. After an unmention, whoever tagged you would subsequently be barred from tagging you again, according to a recent thread on the feature by Twitter’s privacy designer. The company says this will be tested at some point later this year.
  • Archive (aka hide) older tweets. One of the more interesting proposals, you may soon be able to hide those embarrassing old tweets of yours — a potentially nifty thing, considering how often those come back to bite people in the arse. The company is considering a feature that would allow you to sunset the public visibility of older tweets, “hiding posts after 30, 60, and 90 days, or hiding tweets after a full year,” Bloomberg reports. The feature is still only in the conceptual stage.

The news also comes not long after a similar announcement from the company about a new “Safety Mode,” designed to help users protect themselves from various forms of online harassment. When asked for comment via email, a Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo that the newly proposed features were based on extensive research into user preferences:

“Our focus on social privacy is inspired by feedback we received through a series of global research studies we conducted to better understand people’s perceptions of and needs for privacy around the globe. We’ll begin testing some of these features as soon as next week.”

Such changes clearly give the user more control over their experience with the platform — something a lot of people would probably enjoy. At the same time, such shifts could potentially disrupt some of the more toxic elements of Twitter culture: namely, creepiness, unwanted conversations, and bad tweets of years past.