MISC. 20


Twitter’s record with respect to protecting users’ rights and privacy is generally very good, but it scores poorly in our Data Use category. It can effectively do anything it wants with content you post to Twitter, including non-public content, such as your private messages, and even after you close your account.

Data Use

According to Twitter’s Terms of Service, “what’s yours is yours”: you own any content that you post on Twitter. However, the license that you grant Twitter with respect to your submitted content is extremely broad. Twitter has the right to use your content “in any and all media or distribution methods” and make it available to “other companies, organizations or individuals”. Many of the other companies surveyed also have very broad data use provisions. But at the very least, we would like to see Twitter take Google’s approach and limit itself to using data for purposes related to the services that it provides. The current ToS would allow Twitter to use your data for any purpose whatsoever.

We would also like to see the terms of the license vary according to the type of content. The current license picks up not only your public tweets, but also private messages you send to other users. We think most Twitter users would be surprised to learn that Twitter has the right to publish and commercialize their private messages.

Finally, Twitter continues to have rights to your content even if you delete your Twitter account. It does, however, promise to start deleting your account after 30 days — a process that can take up to a week.

SCORE: 12 / 25
  • Twitter can do pretty much anything it wants with content you submit
  • Twitter can continue to use your content even after you close your account

Data Disclosure

Twitter has the right to disclose user information in four circumstances: (1) to comply with legal process; (2) to protect the safety of any person; (3) to address fraud, security or technical issues; (4) to protect Twitter’s rights or property. This is mostly consistent with the practice of its peer companies. As we have noted in our summary of results, these provisions are often too broad.

Twitter’s actual practice of responding to government data requests has been among the best of all of the companies surveyed. Twitter was one of the first companies surveyed to promise to notify users when their data is requested by the government. It has also started producing a twice yearly transparency report that provides statistics on government requests. Although the report shows that Twitter ends up handing over user information in response to most requests (75% of the time in the U.S.), it does have a record of challenging requests that it believes are groundless. For example, it attempted (unsuccessfully) to challenge a New York subpoena for information about an Occupy Wall Street protester.

SCORE: 20 / 25
  • Twitter can share your data with third parties
  • Twitter has very good policies and procedures when it comes to responding to government requests for users' data

Amendment & Termination


Most of the companies surveyed agree to give users notice of a proposed change in their terms of service. Twitter only agrees to give notice for changes that in their “sole discretion” are material. We would like to see Twitter agree to give notice for all changes and to do so in advance of the changes becoming effective.


Twitter can terminate your account at any time and for any reason. This is not uncommon: almost all of the companies surveyed take a similar position. It makes more sense, however, to allow termination only where a user has violated the terms of service. Twitter should also agree to let users download their content before their account is disabled or the service is terminated.

SCORE: 10 / 25
  • No notice for amendments to the terms of service
  • Twitter can terminate your account at any time


We found no other surprising or concerning provisions.

SCORE: 20 / 25

Peer Sites

Social networks

Google is included for its Google+ social network