Twitter Is Tracking You Through The “Tweet” Button

Ever clicked the “Tweet” button at the bottom of a blog article (say, on AllTwitter)? It’s a great way to share things you find interesting on the web with your Twitter followers – and now it’s apparently a great way for Twitter to track your activities online.

A study done for the Wall Street Journal has found that Twitter’s “Tweet” button and Facebook’s “Like” button collect user data every time someone clicks them.

One fifth of the top 1,000 most-visited websites apparently have Twitter’s “Tweet” button installed, which means lots of people are sharing things instantly – and being tracked while they do it.

And what’s more, you don’t even need to actually “Tweet” or “Like” anything for Twitter and Facebook to know what you’re browsing.

According to the study, you only need to have logged in to Twitter or Facebook once – just once – in the past month for them to collect your browsing data. These sites will collect your data, even if you’ve closed your browser or turned off your computer, until you specifically log out.

Neither of the companies say that they use the browsing data collected to track users, but Facebook admits that it does use the data for advertising purposes. Here’s what The Wall Street Journal Twitter says they do with the data:

“Twitter says it doesn’t use such browsing data and deletes it “quickly.” A spokesman says the company could in theory use the data to “surface better content” for users in the future.”

However, that doesn’t prevent Twitter or Facebook from collecting this data in the future, and even tagging it directly with your information as opposed to using it in the aggregate.

This study was unveiled amidst controversy over a recently proposed California social networking privacy bill, which would require all social networks to present users with their privacy options before they complete their sign-up. Twitter joined Facebook, Google and many other companies in writing a letter opposing the bill.