Twitter has declared it’ll be removing the power to tag your precise location from tweets. In a tweet from its support account, the corporate explained that almost all users didn’t use the location-tagging feature and removing it’d “simplify” the tweeting experience. The one exception will be tweeted photos from Twitter’s updated camera.
A Twitter representative said that the modification was still bit by bit rolling out on its platform. The social media platform will still ask for access to a user’s precise location to show them local content — like ads and recommendations. In other words, Twitter can still access to your precise location (if you give it permission), however in most cases you’ll no longer be able to share it with other users.
Location tagging has been a tough subject for Twitter, particularly in matters of privacy. Some users find it helpful to reveal their location to attach with nearby users, like at a protest or concert. Whereas geotagging on Twitter has continually been opt-in since it launched in 2009, users ended up revealing over they intended by sharing their precise location. Tagging a location in a tweet — even something as general as “New York City” or “Dodger Stadium” unconcealed a user’s GPS coordinates. Twitter didn’t fix this problem till April 2015, once it began asking users for permission to reveal their “precise location”– meaning their location right down to the precise longitude and latitude.
Back in January, a bunch of international researchers found that the data of old tweets prior to the policy change still unconcealed precise GPS coordinates. Jason Polakis, one of the researchers said that whereas Wednesday’s policy change was a “step in the right direction”, it didn’t solve the matter entirely since users may still share their precise location in photos.
Still, precise location sharing is merely a problem if users don’t know what they’re getting into. To that end, Twitter probably has to do a much better job of educating users on how precise the location data they’re revealing really is. Polakis added that Twitter created no mention of retroactively removing old tweets that shared precise location information.
Polakis said that after his team published their analysis, Twitter still refused to get rid of old location-tagged tweets. “In Twitter’s post there’s no mention of retroactively removing precise locations from older tweets. When we had published our analysis, Twitter had stated that they didn’t do that because it didn’t appear appropriate to do so without user consent. I imagine that they haven’t done that currently either,” wrote Polakis in an email. A Twitter representative confirmed that Polakis is correct and the platform won’t be removing precise location information from previous tweets.
Given that most users don’t agree to share their precise location to start with, it’s clear that this is an unwanted feature on the social media platform. Whereas revealing the city you live in or the actual fact that you attended Coachella is one thing, sharing your exact GPS coordinates on a public platform is entirely completely different — especially months or even years down the line. Twitter’s call to disable its precise location feature is a positive one, particularly as users become more privacy-conscious.
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