Twitter today is launching a new resource that aims to serve as the central place for everything related to the company’s efforts around privacy and data protection, the Twitter Privacy Center. The new site will host information about Twitter’s initiatives, announcements, new privacy products, and other communication about security incidents. Related to these changes, Twitter is setting up a new company, Twitter International Company, to manage its service in the E.U.
The company says it wanted to create a centralized resource so it would be easier to find all the information about Twitter’s work in this area. However, the impacts of Europe’s data protection regulation, GDPR, likely also spurred Twitter’s efforts on this front, along with other data laws.
For its own purposes, Twitter now needs to have a more organized approach to consumer data privacy. As a result, it makes sense to put Twitter’s work and announcements onto a consumer-facing site that’s easy to navigate and use.
The new Twitter Privacy Center splits information between what’s aimed users and what’s for partners. On the latter front, it has dedicated pages for GDPR, CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), and Global DPA (Data Processing Addendum), for example.
In its newly updated policies, Twitter says the entity serving the E.U. or European Economic Area, is Twitter International Company, not Twitter. This change gives Twitter the ability to test features and settings and provide users with a different set of controls outside of its main product.
For example, Twitter says it may test additional opt-in or opt-out preferences, prompts or other requirements for advertisements. Some of this work may make its way back to Twitter eventually.
Twitter’s new Terms also clarify that its intellectual property license says that the content users provide may be curated, transformed, and translated by Twitter.
In its announcement, Twitter spins its history a bit by saying how privacy has been its focus since the service’s creation in 2006. That’s a funny stance, given its product has been that of a public social media platform, not a private one — a sort of public SMS, in fact.
Twitter notes how users are able to be anonymous on its platform, a feature it says was built with privacy in mind. In reality, Twitter’s creation was inspired by SMS but Twitter remained an ambiguous product for years, until its user base grew and figured out what they wanted Twitter to be. Much of what Twitter is today — even its conventions like the @ mention and the retweet — grew organically, not by design.
The company’s announcement today also states its privacy and data protection work going forward will be focused on three key areas: 1) to fix Twitter’s technical debt — meaning upgrading older systems to support their current uses; 2) to build privacy into all new products it launches; and 3) accountability.
Products now go through reviews by Twitter’s Information Security, Product and Privacy Counsel teams, and its independent Office of Data Protection, ahead of launch. In addition, Twitter’s Data Protection Officer, Damien Kieran, will provide an independent assessment of all privacy and data protection-related work to Twitter’s board of directors every quarter to ensure Twitter remains on track.
“It’s so common to hear tech companies say: ‘Privacy is not a privilege; it is a fundamental right’ that those words have become a cliche. People have become desensitized to hearing companies say, ‘we value your privacy,’ and are worn out from being asked to accept privacy policies that they rarely, if ever, even read,” read Twitter’s announcement about the launch of the new Twitter Privacy Center, jointly authored by both Kieran and Twitter Product Lead, Kayvon Beykpour.
“Many companies make these declarations without even showing people what actions they are taking to protect their privacy. And let’s be honest, we have room for improvement, too,” it stated.