In this article, we will cover Twitter to pay 150M dollars over privacy violations, after using users’ security data to target ads, violating a 2011 order by the Federal Trade Commission.
Starting in 2013 and continuing through 2019, Twitter asked users for their phone numbers or emails for account security but never disclosed that the data would be used by advertisers to target advertisements, according to the complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC. According to the complaint, this conduct also violated the U.S.-EU privacy shield, which was replaced with a new data-sharing agreement in 2016. The 2011 FTC order prohibits Twitter from misleading consumers about its privacy and security policies.
FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a release that:
“Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of harnessing it for security purposes but then ended up also using the data to target users with ads,”
“This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue.”
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in the same release:
“The $150 million penalty reflects the seriousness of the allegations against Twitter, and the substantial new compliance measures to be imposed as a result of today’s proposed settlement will help prevent further misleading tactics that threaten users’ privacy,”
Twitter to pay 150M dollars over privacy violations
The DOJ filed the complaint in the Northern District of California’s U.S. District Court, and a judge has to grant it permission for it to take effect. However, the FTC’s claims have been resolved when Twitter said they will pay the fine. In a 2020 SEC filing, Twitter said it might face a $150 to $250 million fine, citing an unamended FTC complaint. In 2019, the firm claimed that it had inadvertently provided email addresses and phone numbers to advertisers.
We recently found that some email addresses and phone numbers provided for account security may have been used unintentionally for advertising purposes. This is no longer happening and we wanted to give you more clarity around the situation: https://t.co/bBLQHwDHeQ
— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) October 8, 2019
In addition to the fine, Twitter agreed to:
- not profit from “deceptively collected data”;
- allow users to use multi-factor authentication without phone numbers;
- notify users of misusing their information;
- implement a comprehensive privacy and security program and consider privacy in new products;
- limit employee access to the personal data of users and tell the FTC if there is a data breach.
Twitter said in a blog post that:
“Keeping data secure and respecting privacy is something we take extremely seriously, and we have cooperated with the FTC every step of the way. In reaching this settlement, we have paid a $150M USD penalty, and we have aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements to ensure that people’s personal data remains secure and their privacy protected.
Twitter’s commitment to security and privacy is not a point-in-time exercise for us but a core value we constantly enhance by updating our practices to meet the evolving needs of our customers. The recently announced Data Governance Committee is an embodiment of our dedication to strengthen the implementation of our privacy and security policies and standards, as well as to expand our internal privacy and security review processes during the product development life cycle.
Moving forward, we will continue to make investments in this work, including building and evolving processes, implementing technical measures, and conducting regular auditing and reporting to ensure we are mitigating risk at every level and function at Twitter. We will also continue to partner with the FTC, and our security and privacy regulators around the world, on our shared mission of building useful products and services that meet our customers’ needs while keeping the information they share with us secure and respectful of their privacy. “
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