Twitter fined $150 million for selling users’ data
Using users’ personal information for targeted marketing is becoming rampant among big tech companies. In February, Meta’s Facebook agreed to pay $90 million to settle a privacy lawsuit for tracking users’ activity even after they logged out of its website.
Now, social media giant Twitter is the latest company to agree to a privacy settlement after the company was caught using private information, like phone numbers, to target advertising after telling users the information would be used for security reasons,
Today, Twitter agreed to pay $150 million to settle with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy, and security violations, according to a report from Reuters, citing court documents filed on Wednesday. The settlement closes years of fallout over the privacy practices of tech companies.
The court documents further show that the settlement of $150 million covers allegations that Twitter misrepresented the “security and privacy” of user data between May 2013 and September 2019. The complaint said that Twitter’s misrepresentations violated the FTC Act and a 2011 settlement with the agency.
The complaint also alleges that the social giant falsely said it complied with the European Union-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Frameworks, which bar companies from using data in ways that consumers do not authorize.
The social giant will pay $150 million as part of the settlement announced by the DOJ and FTC. In addition to the monetary settlement, the agreement requires Twitter to improve its compliance practices.
“Specifically, while Twitter represented to users that it collected their telephone numbers and email addresses to secure their accounts, Twitter failed to disclose that it also used user contact information to aid advertisers in reaching their preferred audiences,” the complaint said.
Twitter’s chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran, said in a statement that with the settlement “we have aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements” to protect user privacy and security.
On May 17, Musk said his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter will not move forward unless the social media giant shows public proof that less than 5% of the accounts on the social media platform are fake or spam.
On April 25, Twitter agreed to sell the company to Elon Musk for $44 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, Twitter stockholders will receive $54.20 in cash for each share of Twitter common stock that they own upon closing the proposed transaction.
“If Twitter was not truthful here, what else is not true? This is very concerning news,” Musk said in a tweet late on Wednesday, commenting on the social media company’s ad practices and the fine.
“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,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan in a statement. “This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue.”