Twitter Now Knows Which Phone Apps You've Installed But You Can Opt Out

Twitter is launching the "App Graph". Find out what it means should you not opt out of it.

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Starting today, Twitter will be tracking down the list of apps you have installed on your phone, known as the "app graph"

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Starting today, Twitter users on iOS and Android devices will be alerted to a change in the type of data the social network is collecting on them, and will be offered the option to opt-out by adjusting their settings. The data in question is a list of the apps you have installed on your mobile device – a collection of data Twitter is calling the “app graph.”

Twitter is able to know some things about its users based on the content of their tweets and whom they follow, but the ability to know what apps they use would provide more data.

This is part of Twitter's efforts to attract advertisers to target specific people that are vested in interests similar to the brand

Starting Wednesday, the company will begin collecting data on which other apps its users have on their iOS and Android smartphones. The data, Twitter says, will help it deliver better “tailored content” to its users. That’s sure to include ads, but maybe also better recommendations about whom to follow when users sign up, or more relevant first tweets in the feed, which could help Twitter hook people early.

The move will help Twitter better target its 'promoted posts', but the company says it will also improve its suggestions for accounts to follow and adding "Tweets, accounts, or other content to your timeline that we think you'll find especially interesting".

However, the service just tracks the list of the apps you have installed, not the content in it. For example, Twitter will know that you have installed Spotify, but not the songs you listen to on the app.

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Twitter will not, however, be looking at the content of those apps, Recode reports. For instance, Twitter would be able to know if a user has downloaded Spotify, the music-listening app, but not which songs were listened to or how often the app was actually used.

Twitter has assured users that it will only track which applications you have installed, not any data from within the applications. The benefit for advertisers to better target users is obvious: Twitter users with Jawbone UP24 installed could find more fitness-related ads, while music subscriptions services could target users of their rivals with special offers or incentives to switch.

Now, with the ability to peer into the apps that are installed on your mobile device, Twitter will also immediately have a better understanding of who a user is, and be able to customize that person’s Twitter timeline with relevant content. That could potentially make for a more compelling Twitter experience, and ultimately draw users back to the network more often, allowing Twitter to grow and retain its user base of signed-in account holders, which translates into an improved bottom line.

This isn't something new in the tech industry. Facebook has been doing something similar too, just that its not announced.

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Though some may react to Twitter’s move as being something of an over-reach – after all, it’s scooping up data about things that have nothing to do with your use of Twitter itself – the reality is that many companies do this sort of thing today, they just don’t disclose it to their users. In fact, a number of analytics’ providers’ SDKs, for example, track users across apps where they’re installed, giving the app makers a similar data set in order to identify the “persona” of a user, which in turn allows them to draw broader insights about their own customer base.

Facebook is also able to see which apps users have installed on their phones, if the apps use the Facebook SDK (as many do).

If you feel uncomfortable with this, there's a way to opt out of this tracking service. Here's how:

If you're on the Android platform, navigate to settings, "Other", before opting out of interest-based ads

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First tap the three dots (overflow icon) in the top right-hand corner. Then tap Settings from the dropdown and choose the account you want to remove from ad-based targeted ads. Scroll down to the Other area and turn off Tailor Twitter based on my apps.

If you're using iOS, head to the "Me" tab and tap the gear icon. Choose "Settings" before scrolling down to the "Privacy" tab to turn off "Tailor Twitter". Voila!

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Navigate to the Me tab and tap the gear icon. From the pop-up, choose Settings. Then choose the account you would like to remove from ad-based targeted ads. Scroll down to the Privacy section and turn off Tailor Twitter based on my apps.

If you have multiple Twitter accounts you’ll need to do this for all of them individually.

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