The United States Government announced that Twitter must pay a $150 million fine for illegally using user data to help sell targeted ads.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice accused Twitter of taking the phone numbers and email addresses provided by users to increase the security of their account and let advertisers use this data to monetize.
“Twitter obtained user data under the guise of exploiting it for security purposes, but then ended up using the data to target users with ads,” commission chair Lina Khan said in a statement.
The personal information that users give to technology companies, and how that data is used, is a recurring front of conflict between regulators and powerful companies like Meta, parent of Facebook, Twitter and others.
Clashes over privacy have resulted in periodic lawsuits or settlements, but critics have long called for a comprehensive update of the US national rules on how people’s data is handled online.
In a five-year period ending in 2019, More than 140 million Twitter users gave phone numbers or email addresses to the San Francisco-based service. to help secure accounts with two-factor authentication, regulators said.
The security technique involves augmenting passwords with one-time codes sent via text or email.
Without telling users, Twitter allowed advertisers to use personal information to target ads, said the FTC, which worked with federal prosecutors to pursue a case against the technology company.
In addition to accepting the $150 million payment, Twitter will implement further measures, including periodic evaluation of its privacy program by an independent assessor, the agreement states.
The settlement, which will need a judge’s approval, also requires Twitter to inform everyone who joined Twitter before the end of 2019 about the settlement and options to protect their privacy.
With agency information