Twitter agrees to pay $150 million fine in privacy settlement

Twitter will pay a $150 million fine levied by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice on Wednesday, settling federal regulators’ allegations that it failed to protect the privacy of users’ data from 2013 to 2019.

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The federal regulators alleged that the social media giant violated a 2011 order by the FTC by misleading users about how well it maintained the privacy and security of their information that was not public, according to The New York Times.

According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, Twitter will pay the fine and must “implement robust compliance measures to protect users’ data privacy.”

“From at least May 2013 until at least September 2019, Twitter misrepresented to users of its online communication service the extent to which it maintained and protected the security and privacy of their nonpublic contact information,” the complaint said.

Twitter had told users it was collecting their email addresses and phone numbers to protect their accounts but did not do enough to inform them that the information was used to help marketers target ads, according to the Times.

Twitter requires users to provide a telephone number and email address to authenticate their accounts, NPR reported. That information also helps people reset their passwords and unlock their accounts, according to the news organization.

“Consumers who share their private information have a right to know if that information is being used to help advertisers target customers,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds said in a statement. “Social media companies that are not honest with consumers about how their personal information is being used will be held accountable.”

“This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue,” FTC chairperson Lina Khan said in a statement.

Under the settlement, which must be approved by a federal court, Twitter did not admit wrongdoing.

“This issue was addressed as of Sept. 17, 2019, and today we want to reiterate the work we’ll continue to do to protect the privacy and security of the people who use Twitter,” Damien Kieran, Twitter’s chief privacy officer, wrote in a blog post. “Keeping data secure and respecting privacy is something we take extremely seriously, and we have cooperated with the FTC every step of the way.”

In November, Twitter announced the formation of a new data governance committee within the company, according to The Associated Press.

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