Twitter fined $150 million for privacy protection

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Twitter will pay a $150 million fine and implement new safeguards to address federal regulators’ claims that the social platform failed to protect the privacy of users’ data for six years.

The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission announced the settlement with Twitter on Wednesday. Regulators claim Twitter violated a 2011 FTC order by misleading users about how well it respected and protected the privacy and security of their non-public contact information.

From May 2013 to September 2019, Twitter informed users that it was collecting their phone numbers and email addresses for account security purposes. However, it did not disclose that it would also use the information to enable companies to send targeted online advertisements to users of the platform, the government claimed.

Regulators also alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that Twitter falsely claimed it had complied with U.S. privacy agreements with the European Union and Switzerland, which prohibit companies from processing user information in a way that does the purposes approved by users runs counter to

“Twitter received data from users under the guise of using it for security purposes, but then also used the data to target users with ads,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. “This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users while boosting Twitter’s main revenue stream.”

The San Francisco-based company has more than 229 million users worldwide.

The $150 million penalty and required new compliance measures under the settlement are subject to approval by a federal court in California.

The FTC’s 2011 order had alleged serious flaws in Twitter’s data security that allowed hackers to gain unauthorized administrative control over Twitter, including access to non-public user information.

“Keeping data secure and respecting privacy is something we take very seriously, and we’ve worked with the FTC every step of the way,” Damien Kieran, Twitter’s chief privacy officer, said in a blog post on Wednesday. He said the company has taken steps, in accordance with the FTC, to update operations and make other improvements “to ensure people’s personal information remains secure and their privacy protected.”

Twitter announced in November the formation of a new data governance committee within the company.

News of the settlement came on the day of Twitter’s annual shareholder meeting. The drama surrounding Tesla billionaire Elon Musk’s proposed $44 billion purchase of Twitter has been buzzing around the company for weeks. Musk, one of Twitter’s largest shareholders, revised the financing plan for his proposed acquisition on Wednesday, raising hopes from investors that he still wants to go through with the deal.

Twitter has an unparalleled impact on news, politics and society thanks to its public nature, simple interface and instantaneous immediacy. Some experts fear Musk would relax rules on moderation of content, which offers some protections against white supremacy, hate speech and threats of violence. The platform famously banned former President Donald Trump after the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021.

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