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Tailoring Twitter: Barton, Stearns Applaud Company's Support of "Do Not Track," Ask Questions About New Service

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Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Chairman Emeritus of Energy and Commerce Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, and Rep. Cliff Stearns, Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, sent a letter to Twitter's CEO on Thursday applauding the company's dedication to privacy, but asking questions about its new "tailored" approach.

Twitter recently announced in a blog post that the company will begin new experiments of highlighting user accounts in a more tailored approach. The company indicates that the first phase of the experiment will only include a select number of users and offer an experience that "lets novice users go from zero to pro faster and more easily than ever before." The company also announced its support for "Do-Not-Track," a voluntary standard supported by the Federal Trade Commission.

Reps. Stearns and Barton wrote in the letter, "As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus and House Committee on Energy and Commerce, we applaud Twitter's move to protect consumer privacy and believe their voluntary approach to "Do-Not-Track" is one that other companies should follow. However, we would like to inquire about the data collection and practices regarding Twitter's experiments to provide tailored suggestions to its users."

Some of the questions asked in the letter include:

* Please describe all personally identifiable information that Twitter collects from its consumers.

* Please explain how Twitter stores this information (i.e., in a form that is encrypted or otherwise indecipherable to unauthorized persons)? How long is it stored? How does your company dispose of the information, if at all?

* Twitter explains that it will target various user accounts to current users by using the data collected from Twitter widgets across the web. Please describe in detail what information is collected from widgets. Is this information collected automatically when a user simply visits a website with a widget icon?

* Twitter announced its support of "Do-Not-Track" and explains that it would honor the request of a user when this function is active. However, on a mobile device, how does Twitter provide a consumer with the choice to opt-out of being tracked online to provide tailored suggestions to the user? Would Twitter honor the "Do-Not-Track" request of a user across all platforms?

* Under what circumstances does Twitter retain data after users request its deletion? How might consumers benefit from such retention?


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