Twitter is Removing the Option to Tag Your Precise Location in Tweets
Twitter has announced a small, but interesting, update, with the removal of the capacity to tag your precise location within your tweets.
Most people don’t tag their precise location in Tweets, so we’re removing this ability to simplify your Tweeting experience. You’ll still be able to tag your precise location in Tweets through our updated camera. It’s helpful when sharing on-the-ground moments.
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 18, 2019
It likely won’t have any significant impact – as Twitter notes, most people don’t use the option anyway. But it is still worthy of note, particularly as a data tracking tool, as it could lessen the platform’s capacity to track location data. At least, it could in theory.
Given that the option is built into Twitter’s back-end code, the app will still be able track your exact location anyway, if you have the capacity switched on. Location tracking isn’t on by default, but even if it’s no longer an option for your tweets, if you’ve chosen to switch it on in the past, Twitter can still use it.
As per Twitter:
“Enabling precise location allows you to selectively add location information to your Tweets. This feature is off by default and you will need to opt-in to use it. This allows Twitter to collect, store, and use your precise location, such as GPS information.”
That, theoretically, would mean that Twitter would still be able to keep tabs on where you’re tweeting from, though it may not have the same capacity for newer users who’ve never opted-in. Unless, as noted in the above tweet, they switch the same on via the tweet camera, in which case, Twitter won’t likely lose a heap of data capacity, enabling them to keep track of tweet geography – even if it’s not expressly shared by each user on each tweet.
In that case, the only real loss here is that users won’t be able to tag their exact location in their tweets. Which, again, not many people do anyway. Maybe that lessens third-party tracking to some degree, but the impacts will likely be minimal either way.
It also marks another small step in the gradual shift away from public information broadcasting by social networks, which has become a much bigger focus in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. With users increasingly concerned about the information they share, the platforms themselves are now taking more steps to reassure people that they are not being monitored, and their data is not being logged every moment. But it is. Maybe not to the same degree up front, maybe not in a publicly visible format. But the platform’s aren’t softening their privacy agreements and reducing the permissions users have already given them.
That’s not to say it’s not important that the platforms are displaying less of your data, but a lot of it feels more like a PR exercise than a welfare-focused one. The outcome, either way, is likely similar, but it’s worth noting the aesthetic focus of such updates.