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FTC Charges Twitter with Deceptively Using Account Security Data to Sell Targeted Ads

FTC and DOJ Order Twitter to Pay $150 Million Penalty for Violating 2011 FTC Order and Cease Profiting from Deceptively Collected Data

Illuminate IC Staff Writers

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The Federal Trade Commission is taking action against Twitter, Inc. for deceptively using account security data for targeted advertising. Twitter asked users to give their phone numbers and email addresses to protect their accounts. The firm then profited by allowing advertisers to use this data to target specific users. Twitter’s deception violates a 2011 FTC order that explicitly prohibited the company from misrepresenting its privacy and security practices. Under the proposed order, Twitter must pay a $150 million penalty and is banned from profiting from its deceptively collected data.

Twitter has paid a $150 million fine to the FTC over its"deceptive" use of user data for targeted advertising. The fine stems from the company’s admission in 2019 that it had for years used Twitter users’ phone numbers and email addresses provided for two-factor authentication to also serve targeted ads.

The company said at the time that its use of the phone numbers for ads was “an error,” and that it wasn't certain how many users were affected. In a statement, FTC Chair Lina Khan said that more than 140 million users were affected by the practice, which persisted between 2014 and 2019. It was also in violation of a previous agreement Twitter had with the FTC, dating back to 2011, which "prohibited the company from misrepresenting its privacy and security practices."

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