Social media infers a lot about you. After all, if the service is free, you’re the product. Here’s how to view your Twitter inferred interests and see what Twitter thinks it knows about you.
Viewing Twitter inferred interests
Log in to your Twitter account, then click the icon with three dots on the left side of the screen. Select Settings and Privacy, then click Your Twitter Data, then click Interests and Ads Data, then, finally, Inferred interests from partners.
I found my inferred interests to be oddly specific.
What kinds of things does Twitter think it knows about you?
Twitter is pretty sure I pay my bills reliably. It thinks I drive a 21-year-old vehicle and like Ram trucks and Buicks. It thinks I’m in the market for a new car and would respond positively to an auto loan offer. It thinks I like pickles and olives, mayonnaise, high-fiber cereal, deli bulk meat, and wine. Its spies also tell it I eat at fast-casual restaurants, and am related to someone 40-49 years old.
It thinks I want a new vehicle but want to pay under $20K for it. Considering that affinity for Ram trucks and Buicks, that might be a problem. Or maybe not, since I apparently don’t mind a car that’s old enough to drive itself to the store and buy that wine. Are they sure it’s me who likes wine, or are they confusing me with my car?
It seems to have trouble figuring out if I’m male or female, even though I say so in my profile. But it does think I’m going to be an upscale retiree, which I find reassuring, even if I don’t know what “L60” means.
It thinks I live near a Publix, a Winn-Dixie, a CVS, and a Dollar General. And apparently I like pro soccer and basketball. Oh, and my annual household income is between $30,000-$39,999, even though I have no trouble paying my bills and will be comfortable in retirement. Where exactly does it think I live?
Where your Twitter inferred interests come from
Some of the things in my Twitter list are things I’ve liked on Facebook. Some of it is just crazy random. If you know me well at all, for example, you know I haven’t had a drink since 2003. So that wine thing is out of the blue. Even in 2003 or before, I didn’t drink wine, except for that awful gasohol/cheap grape juice concoction Lutherans use for communion.
Anyone who knows me well at all knows that mayonnaise is fairly high on my list of dislikes. But the list of grocery items is oddly specific, and we have bought most of those items at one of the grocery stores Twitter thinks I live near. So, somehow Twitter does seem to have managed to correlate some things I’ve done in the real world with my online presence. And that’s a little unsettling.
What you should do about your Twitter inferred interests
There are a few things you can do about this. First, either be super careful what companies you like on Facebook or follow on Twitter. Or be super reckless about it. I can’t quite bring myself to follow Nickelback, but that’s the kind of reckless to be.
Second, be careful what apps you’re loading on your phone. I don’t need the Dollar General app on my phone, and I really don’t need Dollar General knowing how far I live from its nearest store. The same goes for every other restaurant or store I visit a couple of times a year. Their apps frequently will access your location data, and I don’t want 83 different companies tracking my movements. I’ve already got three doing it whether I like it or not, and that’s three too many.
And if you don’t want Twitter looking in your grocery cart, you pretty much have to pay cash. If you pay cash, there’s no name on a debit or credit card to associate your purchases with. I guess that’s an advantage of the envelope system I hadn’t thought of.
The thing is, large companies are going to build a dossier on you. You can’t stop it. But you can take steps to make it less accurate. So that’s been my general approach. Do I really like both Dollar Tree and Nieman Marcus? On Facebook I do.