Twitter fined $150 million for passing users’ contact details to advertisers | Twitter

Twitter was fined $150m (£119m) by US authorities after collecting users’ email addresses and phone numbers for security purposes, but then used the data to target them with ads.

The social media platform had told users the information would be used to keep their accounts secure, under an agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Trade Commission.

“While Twitter told users it collects their phone numbers and email addresses to secure their accounts, Twitter did not disclose that it also uses users’ contact information to help advertisers reach their customers. favorite audiences,” said one complaint to court filed by the DoJ.

The breaches occurred between May 2013 and September 2019, according to the court document, with the information apparently used for purposes such as two-factor authentication. But Twitter would then use that data to allow advertisers to target specific groups of Twitter users, matching phone numbers and email addresses to advertisers’ own lists of phone numbers and email addresses. .

In addition to the financial settlement, the agreement requires Twitter to improve its compliance practices. The complaint said the misrepresentations violated FTC law and a 2011 settlement with the agency.

Twitter’s chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran, said in a statement that the company has “cooperated with the FTC every step of the way.”

“In reaching this settlement, we paid a $150 million fine and aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements to ensure people’s personal data remains secure and their lives protected privacy,” he added.

Twitter derives 90% of its $5bn (£3.8bn) annual revenue from advertising. Its reliance on that revenue caught the eye of Elon Musk, who agreed to buy the company for $44 billion.

Tesla’s chief executive has criticized the ad-driven model and pledged to generate revenue for Twitter in different areas, although he announced this month that the deal was “on hold” while he was asking for clarification from Twitter about the number of spam or fake accounts on the service.

Musk jumped on the FTC’s announcement on Wednesday. “If Twitter wasn’t truthful here, what else isn’t true? This is very concerning news,” he said in a tweet to his more than 95 million followers. Musk’s comments came as he revealed changes to his takeover financing, announcing the amount of money he needed to raise to buy Twitter was $33.5 billion from $27.5 billion. billions of dollars before.

“Twitter obtained user data under the guise of mining it for security purposes, but then ended up using it to target users with ads as well,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. . “This practice has impacted over 140 million Twitter users, while increasing Twitter’s primary source of revenue.”

The complaint also alleges that Twitter incorrectly stated that it complies with the European Union-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Frameworks, which prohibit companies from using data in a way that consumers do not allow.

Twitter’s settlement follows years of fallout over the privacy practices of tech companies. Revelations in 2018 that Facebook, the world’s largest social network, was using phone numbers provided for two-factor authentication to serve ads infuriated privacy advocates. Facebook, now called Meta, also settled the matter with the FTC in a $5 billion settlement reached in 2019.