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Twitter privacy and security

How to protect your privacy and enhance security on Twitter - location information, tracking, two-step authentication etc

By . Last modified: 2014-03-28.

Twitter defines itself as "a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages". Basically, you can write short messages (tweets) about what you are doing or what you like or dislike for your friends, family and co-workers.

General guidelines on staying safe at Twitter

First, do not tweet sensitive information: your passwords, personal information, secret work projects, etc. For example, "I really hate my stupid boss now" might get you fired if your employer finds out about it...

All tweets are public (visible to the whole world) and all search engines index them. You cannot create lists or groups in Twitter, or specify custom viewing rights for your tweets, so please be really careful about what you post!

If you need total privacy with your friends/followers, use the Protect my tweets option to be visible to selected persons only.

Second, do not trust all people who want to follow you - there are many cyber-crooks with fake accounts among them. And believe me, Madonna (or any other celebrity) is not interested in following what you ate for breakfast. Check how many people the (most probably fake) account is following and how many followers the account has. If the ratio is something like 1000:6, something is really wrong. I mean, every real celebrity should have thousands of followers and he/she just does not have the time to read the tweets of thousands other people.

You should block any suspicious follower immediately to prevent possible theft of personal data. To block an account, click Followers in the bar on the left (under your picture and name).
To block an account from following you in Twitter, click the Followers link first.

Find the person you want to block and click the button right to Follow button. Select Block @<user name> from the menu.
Please note that Twitter user saatchi_gallery is not a spammer, this is just an example!
To block an account from following you in Twitter, click the button to the right of user name on Followers list. Then click Block.

If you accidentally blocked a wrong person, you can click Undo right away to unblock the account.
Be wary!

If you've approved a malicious app on Twitter and need to remove it, open the cogwheel menu (on the top right) and click Settings.
To change your Twitter account settings, open the user menu and click Settings.

Click Apps tab on the left.
To check or revoke applications' access to your Twitter account, open Apps tab.

Find the Twitter app you need to remove and click Revoke Access. Don't worry if you accidentally deny a good app's access to your profile - the button turns into an undo button until you move to another page.
Please note that Ping.fm is not a malicious application, this is just an example!
To remove applications' access to your Twitter profile, click the Revoke Access button.

Third, always sign out of Twitter before closing your web browser or navigation to another web page. The reason is that clicking a Tweet button on a web page starts sending your browsing habits - all web pages you visit - to Twitter. Logging off Windows or shutting down or rebooting your computer will not help, you really-really must sign out. Do this by opening the cogwheel menu on the top right and clicking Sign out.
To log off of Twitter, open the user menu and click Sign out.

Configuring Twitter settings

After you log in to your Twitter account, open the cogwheel menu (to the right of Search box) and click Settings. This opens the Account tab on the left.
To change your Twitter account settings, open the user menu and click Settings.

As Twitter added support for photos and videos, it might be necessary to set some Tweet Media options.
The Do not inform me before showing media that may be sensitive option is generally up to you. Yup, this enables showing those NSFW (Not Suitable/Safe For Work) photos and video clips that are of adult nature. Wink
In case you post photos and videos that may be disturbing to your followers, please tick the Mark media I tweet as containing material that may be sensitive box.

In the Messages section, clear the Receive direct messages from any follower check box. This prevents accidental and/or intentional spamming by people who follow you.
Twitter settings, Account. If your photos and videos are NSFW, enable the 'Mark media I tweet as containing material that may be sensitive' option. Then clear the 'Receive direct messages from any follower' check box.

Click the Save changes button to store account settings. You might have to re-enter your password.

Security and Privacy options

On Twitter settings page, open Security and privacy tab from the left.

If you want to secure your account from hijacking, select the Send login verification requests to my phone or Send login verification requests to the Twitter app option in Login verification section. This means that you must enter the code that you'll receive on your phone or your Android/iPhone app before you can log in to Twitter. Codes are unique for each login attempt to prevent hackers from taking over your account.
Please note that you must have a carrier supported by Twitter to enable 2-step authentication. There is no point in setting up long codes, because this does not support authentication.

To keep your Twitter account more secure, enable the Require personal information to reset my password option in Password reset section. This will require some personal information during a password change. Please make sure you do not share this information publicly on Twitter or anywhere else.
Twitter settings, Security and privacy, Password reset. To prevent malicious password change attempts, enable the 'Require personal information to reset my password' option.

To prevent other people from tagging you in photos posted to Twitter, use either Do not allow anyone to tag me in photos or Only allow people I follow to tag me in photos option in Photo tagging section.

Typically, all tweets are visible to everyone and they can be indexed by search engines (Google, Bing, etc). To hide your tweets from public and show them to selected people only, tick the Protect my tweets check box in Tweet Privacy section.
Twitter settings, Security and privacy, Photo tagging. To prevent personal data leaks, select the 'Do not allow anyone to tage me in photos' option.

To prevent Twitter from geotagging your tweets, clear the Add a location to my Tweets check box in Tweet Location section. Then click the Delete all location information button. Twitter will confirm this action with a pop-up dialog.

If you do not want to be found on Twitter by your e-mail address, clear the Let others find me by my email address box in Discoverability section. Please note that your e-mail address is used during password resets, so hiding this is actually pretty important.
Twitter settings, Security and privacy, Tweet location. To disable tweet geotagging, clear the 'Add a location to my tweets' check box. Also disable the 'Let others find me by my email address' option to prevent malicious password reset attempts.

In the Personalization section, make sure that Do Not Track has a green check mark. This prevents Twitter from collecting and storing your browsing habits.

Finally, clear the Tailor ads based on information shared by ad partners check box in Promoted content section and add check mark to another Do Not Track field. This stops further ad-based tracking.
Twitter settings, Security and privacy, Personalization and Promoted content. Clear all check boxes and make sure that both 'Do Not Track' fields have a green check mark.

Click the Save changes button to store account settings. You might have to re-enter your password.

Preventing other people from looking you up by phone number

Because Twitter allows finding people by their phone numbers, it is strongly recommended to verify that the Let others find me by my phone number check box on Mobile tab of Twitter settings is cleared.
Please note that phone number might be asked during password resets, so your number should be hidden.
Twitter settings, Mobile. To disable other persons' ability to look you up by your phone number, clear the 'Let others find me by my phone number' box.

Changing your Twitter account password

If you need to change your Twitter password, open the cogwheel menu to the right of Search field and click Settings.
To change your Twitter account settings, open the user menu and click Settings. 

Click Password tab and type your present password into Current Password field.
Enter the new password into New Password and Verify New Password fields. Please create a strong and unique password, and consider using some free password management program for securely storing and auto-filling user names and passwords.
Click Save changes to confirm password change.
Twitter settings, Password. To change your password, type your present password into Current Password field. Then enter your new password into New Password and Verify New Password fields. Click Save changes.


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