Is HootSuite’s “Insight” tab an invasion of privacy?

For the past several months, I’ve been using HootSuite to manage various Twitter accounts. Its versatility, ease of use and well-organized screens (especially when managing multiple accounts) put it miles ahead of the more popular TweetDeck.

Recently, however, HootSuite introduced a tab in personal profiles called “Insight”. The tab was meant to give you more information about either your account or the account you were following. Unfortunately, it also made information public that you had no intention of providing through your Twitter account. Apparently, HootSuite grabbed information available online (likely matching it to your account’s e-mail address) and automatically linked it to your profile.

Here’s the problem: my Twitter account is personal. It’s branded as personal (me) or personal business (stuff I’m involved with outside of regular employment). What the people at HootSuite did, however, was design the Insight tab to go out and “grab” information from other online sources about you and insert it even if you didn’t want to attach that information to your personal account. My Insight tab ended giving my age, where I worked and other information I had definitely not given permission to HootSuite to publicize.

While some may see this as giving more information about your account in order to give more context to your comments, in fact is does quite the opposite. I suggest that it gives false context to your comments because an account that is clearly branded as personal now has your employment attached to it and a bunch of other information even though you don’t want it there – and don’t need it there because you’re not tweeting on behalf of anyone else. While I realize the lines have blurred between personal and professional online, people do still have the right to do things as themselves and take great care at ensuring their employers aren’t connected to their accounts. What HootSuite did was impose that information in users’ Insight tabs, giving false context to their tweets — not more context.

I was so appalled on the day this happened that I immediately cancelled my account and moved back to TweetDeck, much to my chagrin, because HootSuite is clearly a better platform. But here’s the ultimate issue: I have the right to tweet as myself. We all do. How can we do that if a platform such as HootSuite imposes information to be available through our accounts that we never wanted attached to our accounts?

If you tweet something that is controversial or semi-controversial and your employer doesn’t have a problem with it as long as you do it on your own time and as your own person, great. The problem with HootSuite is that even if you’ve taken all the precautions necessary, the service still goes out and grabs it and imposes it into your account. This is just not right, especially if you haven’t noticed and aren’t taking this into consideration when tweeting. There were even reports that I read that had the Insight tab impose information that was blatantly wrong.

This can cause a lot of anguish, especially if people reading your Insight tab believe everything there. And remember, HootSuite is doing this on their own without asking you first. So, unfortunately — at least for a few days — HootSuite was history for me. What a shame, too, because it’s miles ahead of TweetDeck, even though TweetDeck has many more users.

My warning to all those HootSuite users out there. Go to your “sent tweets” index and click on your account name. Your public profile will then pop up. Click on the Insight tab and see what’s there. If, like me, you saw your age, employer, unauthorized photos, etc., take action.

On the day I quit HootSuite, there was no opt-out option for the Insight tab. That has since been rectified, thankfully. I’ve returned to HootSuite — a platform miles ahead of TweetDeck on so many levels — and have opted out of the Insight tab. (You do this by clicking on the Insight tab in your profile and choosing the option to opt out.) It’s just too bad that they didn’t ensure this opt-out option was available on day one.

I say: By all means, use HootSuite to manage your Twitter account(s), but make sure you know what’s in the Insight tab regarding you. My advice: Opt out immediately or be committed to checking it several time per day. You just never know what will show up.

3 Responses to Is HootSuite’s “Insight” tab an invasion of privacy?

  1. That’s really good advice.

    I hadn’t gotten all the nuances by reading your tweets. I suppose 140 characters isn’t always enough!

    I’ve opted out.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I checked & opted out even though there wasn’t anything in my profile that I was concerned about anyone seeing.
    I’m relieved because I am pretty well managing all of my accounts on Hootsuite while gradually weaning off of SocialOmph.