Maintaining anonymity/privacy with multiple Twitter accounts
March 29, 2015 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I have a so-far unused 'public' Twitter account under my real name tied to my primary (real-name) gmail account. I have a 2nd Twitter account tied to a different gmail address that I would like to use for personal/ frivolous/off-brand uses. I would prefer that the twain shall never meet - e.g. my personal Twitter will not be suggested to contacts from professional Twitter as 'someone to follow'. Is this possible?

I plan to access both accounts primarily through the vanilla android app. However, once I set up the app to manage both accounts, I began to receive suggestions of people to follow on my private twitter account that - as far as I can tell - could only have come from scouring my real-name gmail contacts. I am not following anyone on either twitter account, and 'find by email' is disabled for both. I have a few followers on 'public/professional' twitter that probably found me by scouring their own email contacts ( friends and colleagues). My second 'burner' gmail address (tied to private twitter) does not share contacts with my primary gmail.
I am not pleased that twitter is not keeping the accounts separate in ways that are visible to me, but I expected that. What I am concerned about is whether others will be able to connect the accounts (through means other than 'hrm, the interests and comments of this twitter user really remind me of Svejk', which is fine). Can I expect that my current setup will maintain a reasonable level of distance between my twitter avatars?
posted by Svejk to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I *think* (assertion without evidence alert) that blocking the public account from the private one should prevent twitter from linking the two. At least that works in my head, but it's worth a shot.
posted by gmb at 7:52 AM on March 29, 2015

Best answer: I don't use Android, I use iPhone (both official and third-party apps) and desktop/laptop, so YMMV.

I manage countless Twitter accounts, some personal and some on behalf of clients, and I have never had this issue.

I know the official Twitter iPhone app has a setting that enables you to opt-out of being discoverable through the email address you signed up with. The Twitter web interface also gives you a Settings page where you can uncheck the options to let people discover you based on your email address and/or your phone number.

I would check the settings on the Android app first, if that's what seems to have set off the problem.

All of the suggestions of whom to follow that I have received from Twitter seem very topic- and interest-based, and appropriate to the account that receives the suggestion.

The only time I've had the kind of surprise you're describing is when I set up a private Instagram account using my primary email address (I had used a non-primary address for setting up my main Instagram account), and I forgot to turn off the discoverability setting, and suddenly my IRL friends started following the private account.
posted by univac at 9:07 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The twitter app seems to know your phone number; are they linked that way? I would use different apps at minimum.
posted by salvia at 10:21 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I too have private and work twitter, and use primarily from Android app. I too noticed a bit too much of an overlap as to the people that it was recommending to me. I do not know if this is derived in such a way that would mean that the chance of someone following my work account would see my private account as a recommendation.

It is conceivable that the algorithm does this in good faith. For example it notices that public account is used in small town (home) and big city (work) and therefore notes that private account also has similar pattern and makes me a good recommendation for myself to follow. (Same rules could be applied based on technology used to access, writing style, couple of common people that I follow on both accounts.)

RE your concern about others connecting your account I have not had anyone say "Hey twitter recommended I follow this account- is this you too" but I feel that it is a danger. I have rolled back on using my public account (which is a shame as I'd have liked to have a professional social presence, but I value being able to vent un-self-censored on my private account).

If I had to ramp up use of professional account I'd be tempted to use a different device (i.e. pc only for professional purposes, mobile for private). Salvia's suggestion of different app at a minimum would be a good idea (would also reduce chance of accidentally tweeting as profSveck while you were thinking as privSvejk).

Very interested to hear of other's experience/knowledge on this.
posted by Gratishades at 5:37 AM on March 31, 2015

Response by poster: Upon further investigation, I believe that the android twitter client is the source of the problem. I think, but cannot verify, that the default upon install is to scour the phone for contacts and use them in creating follower suggestions for all accounts accessed on the phone. I think, but cannot verify without reinstalling, that this behavior is umbrella'ed in under the app permissions upon install, rather than a user-acessable setting. For future readers, I would suggest creating accounts only from the twitter website itself, where the full array of privacy permissions is available at setup. I changed my settings on the web to not import contacts, and it appears the unwanted follower recommendations are dwindling away. I am not sure whether my private account will still be recommended to followers of my public account.
posted by Svejk at 4:24 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Using different devices or apps is also a sound practice, once the accounts have been set up on the web . Let not the right hand know what the left hand is doing!
posted by Svejk at 4:27 AM on April 6, 2015

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