Matt Rourke / AB
Twitter has agreed to pay a $ 150 million fine after federal law enforcement officials accused a social media company of illegally using people’s personal data for six years to help sell targeted ads.
In Court documents It was made public on Wednesday that the Federal Trade Commission and the judiciary claim that Twitter has been violated 2011 agreement with regulators In it, the company promised not to use information collected for security purposes, such as users’ phone numbers and email addresses, to help advertisers target people through ads.
Federal investigators say Twitter has broken that promise.
“As the complaint alleges, Twitter received data from users on the pretext of using it for security purposes, but then used the data to target users with ads,” said FTC President Lina Conn.
Twitter users must provide a phone number and email address to authenticate accounts. That information helps people reset their passwords and open their accounts when the company prevents them from logging in due to suspicious activity.
But at least until September 2019, Twitter used that information to allow advertisers to access users’ phone numbers and email addresses to boost its advertising business. This violates the agreement the company has made with the regulators.
“If you say you’re using their phone numbers to protect their accounts, you’re using them for other purposes, you’re cheating them and breaking the law,” said Sam Levine, who heads the FTC’s Consumer Bureau. Security, in an interview with NPR.
According to federal prosecutors, more than 140 million Twitter users have provided such personal information based on “Twitter fraudulent reports.”
“Consumers who share their personal information have a right to know if that information is being used to help advertisers target advertisers,” said Stephanie Hinds, a U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California.
Damien Kieran, Twitter’s chief privacy officer, agreed Web site Users’ personal information “may have been used carelessly for advertising.”
He said the company would no longer sell information collected for security purposes to advertisers.
“We take data security and respect for privacy very seriously, and we’re collaborating with the FTC at every step,” Kieran wrote.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Twitter has agreed to stop profiting from information collected for security purposes. This agreement, which still requires court approval, will restrict staff access to users’ personal data.
The action echoes a Widespread immigration The FTC was fined $ 5 billion by Facebook in 2019 for promising to stop sharing information obtained for security purposes with the social media company Advertisers.
Under the terms of FTC’s agreement with Twitter, the company’s advertising practices will be overseen by regulators and an independent monitor for two decades.
Justin Brookman, director of technology policy for consumer reporting, said companies such as Twitter, which has long relied on surveillance tools, could be in trouble as regulators continue to crack down on targeted advertising.
“We see the association of controllers, but browsers and operating systems reduce cookies and reduce the many tools companies use to monitor people across services,” Brookman said. “In some cases, a lot of these tools are gone, and I think companies need to find new ways to make money. The days of printing money from targeted advertising are coming to an end.”
The solution comes at a critical time on Twitter.
The company has been in crisis since Tesla CEO Elon Musk last month took over the social media site for $ 44 billion.
Musk recently announced that the deal has been “suspended”, arguing that the first step is to determine how widespread the Bot accounts on the site are.
But corporate affiliate experts and members of Twitter’s chief executive said the deal was still in progress because a partner and regulatory review of the legally binding deal with Musk was pending.
Musk has not yet commented on the settlement on Wednesday.