What Twitter's 'Do Not Track' Feature Will Mean For You

Alex Fitzpatrick

Twitter announced Thursday it will take part in "Do Not Track," a cookie-blocking feature found in Mozilla's Firefox browser that's promoted by the Federal Trade Commission. What does that mean for you, the user?

When a Firefox user enables Do Not Track, the browser prevents websites from using cookies to track the user's behavior and personal information. Do Not Track only works on sites that have signed on to the service -- a list which now includes Twitter.

[More from Mashable: Twitter Implements ‘Do Not Track’ Feature]

Cookies can be used for many purposes, including storing information that some, including Google, argue makes browsing the web easier (a weather site might remember your postal code, for example). However, some believe that cookie-based tracking is a breach of privacy. Facebook has previously come under fire for following users around non-Facebook sites.

Cookies are also an essential ingredient for websites serving up advertisements based on user's behavior or location, called "behavioral ads." Say, for example, you're located in New York City and you often tweet about baseball -- with cookies enabled, Twitter would know to serve you ads and sponsored tweets that have to do with the New York Yankees.

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Those customized ads are an important moneymaker for social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Different sites use cookies for different purposes. According to Twitter's privacy guide, Twitter uses cookies to learn how users interact with its services, monitor web traffic and improve its products (including advertising).

If you enable Do Not Track, you're opting out of having your data collected for those purposes, making you, your profile and your tweets more anonymous. You would also be waving goodbye to those personalized ads -- no cookies means no customization data for advertising firms.

However, Do Not Track is not an ad-blocking service, and enabling it will translate into receiving generic ads and sponsored tweets in your feed.

Enabling Do Not Track will also prevent Twitter's web-based service from remembering your user name and password, preventing you from automatically logging in upon arrival.

Do Not Track is, at its core, a trade off. It asks of you: Do you prefer ease of use and personalized ads, or more anonymity from web services and online advertising agencies? According to Mozilla, 8.6% of desktop Firefox users and 19% of mobile users are choosing the latter, with nearly half of those users reporting they feel more safe surfing the Internet with Do Not Track enabled.

For more information on Do Not Track, visit Mozilla's website.

We reached out to Twitter for further information about Do Not Track. We will update this post with any response.

Which is right for you -- easier surfing or more privacy? Sound off in the comments below.

This story originally published on Mashable here.