Ethan Banks On productivity.

Improving Your Twitter Privacy By Using Lists


A long time ago, I gave up on trying to follow back everyone that follows me on Twitter. Because of the podcast, there’s more followers than I can reasonably wade through…so I don’t try. The reasons that merit selective follow-backs are many, but include…

  1. Some people still use FourSquare. I probably don’t want to know where folks are. When an audience is global, geographic location is rarely interesting to the aggregate audience unless it’s unusual and there’s a sweet picture to go along with it. Use Facebook if you must announce to the world your mayoral status.
  2. Not everyone tweets interesting things. And by “interesting,” I mean “interesting to me.” I like nerdy tweets. Computer networking tweets, of course. Insightful tweets. Tweets linking to content worth reading or viewing. Some folks just tweet things that bore me, which is admittedly too easy to do. My brain jumps around a lot. OH LOOK! A butterfly!
  3. Not everyone tweets in English. If the majority of a person’s tweets aren’t in English, then…meh. Whatever.
  4. Not everyone tweets. Lurkers aren’t curating an audience, obviously.
  5. Not all Twitter accounts are humans. There are plenty of bots and auto-responders that follow accounts whose tweets match certain keywords. I don’t purposely feed the bots.
  6. Many Twitter accounts are scammers. If there’s a picture of some risque female with a naughty description following you, it’s not at all real, and therefore you can only infer the worst intentions on the part of whatever force IS behind the account. I block these when I catch them. And even if it was a real account? Ewwww.
  7. There’s more data for the scary profilers to use. Who you follow and who follows you are data points for the social media profilers to use, probably against me in some way. This is a tinfoil hat suspicion of mine, but I’m really trying to thin down what can information be easily gathered about my online life. At the moment, I’m not following anyone on Twitter, at least not in the form of being a “follower”.

But I *am* paying attention to Teh Twitterz. How am I paying attention to Twitter, but not following anyone? I use private Twitter lists. I add people to the list, then monitor the list. This is especially easy using HootSuite. HootSuite lets me monitor Twitter in columns. I have several lists, and each list gets a HootSuite column. My lists are marked as “private”, meaning no one else can see who’s in my lists.

Have I defeated the data miners? Hmm. I’m not entirely sure. Certainly Twitter knows who I keep in my private lists…as does Feedly, HootSuite, and DISQUS – apps I am willing to link to my Twitter account. I suppose if I dug into the terms of use for those products, I could determine in just what ways I’ve agreed to let them use my information. But overall, I’ve got to be doing better than before.

privacy (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
By Ethan Banks
Ethan Banks On productivity.

You probably know Ethan Banks because he writes & podcasts about IT. For example, he co-authored "Computer Networks Problems & Solutions" with Russ White.

This site is Ethan on productivity--not tech so much.

Find out more on his about page.