- According to the report, Twitter broke its own regulations and commercially exploited customer data.
- The settlement’s $150 million penalty and new compliance measures must be authorised by a federal court in California.
- The San Francisco-based company has over 229 million users worldwide.
According to US authorities, Twitter agreed to pay $150 million to settle allegations that the platform provided advertisers some user information that was meant to be used to strengthen account security.
Twitter was accused by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice of taking phone numbers or email addresses provided to tighten privacy and then allowing advertisers to profit from the data.
“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 commission chief Lina Khan in a statement.
The personal information that users provide to tech companies, and how that data is used, has been a point of conflict between regulators and powerful corporate entities such as Facebook parent Meta, Twitter, and others.
Conflicts over privacy have resulted in periodic lawsuits or settlements, but critics have long called for a thorough update of US national rules governing how people’s data is handled online.
“Consumers who share their private information have a right to know if that information is being used to help advertisers target customers,” said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a statement.
Along with agreeing to pay $150 million, Twitter will implement new measures, including having its privacy program examined on a regular basis by an independent assessor, according to the settlement agreement.
“Keeping data secure and respecting privacy is something we take extremely seriously, and we have cooperated with the FTC every step of the way,” Twitter chief privacy officer Damien Kieran said in a blog post.
“We have aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements to ensure that people’s personal data remains secure and their privacy protected,” he added, noting the penalty has already been paid.
The settlement, which must be authorised by a judge, also requires Twitter to notify all users who joined Twitter prior to late 2019 about the deal and their privacy options.