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Twitter has to pay $150 million for misusing people’s phone numbers

The $150 million lawsuit was brought forward by the DOJ and FTC.

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Image: KnowTechie

Twitter is paying $150 million to settle a lawsuit alleging it misrepresented the “security and privacy” of user data between May 2013 and September 2019.

The complaint was brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over Twitter’s mishandling of members’ email addresses and phone numbers for targeted advertising.

It’s not only a fine that Twitter must deal with, but the company also must accept audits of its data privacy program. The complaint says that Twitter violated the FTC Act and a 2011 settlement with the agency.

Twitter used phone numbers and emails that users added to their accounts for targeted advertising. That’s bad enough, but the manner of how they collected that data is the real kicker.

The company asked users to add their phone numbers to secure their accounts. Between 2014 and 2019, more than 130 million Twitter users added their number for two-factor authentication and other uses. Twitter used those phone numbers for advertising purposes.

“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,” says Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

Twitter’s own blog announcing the settlement says that it stopped the practice in September 2019. That may be, but it was running the program for six years. Six. That’s a long time to be misusing information given as a security measure.

Billionaire Elon Musk, Twitter’s next owner, tweeted out yesterday “If Twitter was not truthful here, what else is not true?” Is this settlement another roadblock in the sale? Musk has already said the sale is “on hold” based on the number of inauthentic users on the site.

The board has other thoughts, saying the sale is still moving forward, at the agreed-upon price of $54.20 per share.

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