Twitter expecting FTC fine of up to $250M for alleged privacy violations

Twitter says it is expecting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to hit it with a fine of between $150 million and $250 million over alleged privacy violations.

In a 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the San Francisco-based company said it received a draft complaint from the FTC on July 28 detailing alleged violations of Twitter’s 2011 consent order with the commission that required it to stop misleading its users regarding how it protects their personal data.

Specifically, the allegations relate to Twitter’s use of users’ phone numbers and email data that it gathered for safety and security purposes but which was also used for targeted advertising between 2013 and 2019.

The issue came to light in October 2019 when Twitter addressed it publicly. Explaining what had happened, the company said that when an advertiser uploaded their marketing list, “we may have matched people on Twitter to their list based on the email or phone number the Twitter account holder provided for safety and security purposes.” It said the action had been carried out “inadvertently” and described it as an “error.” It added that it couldn’t be certain how many people on its platform had had their data used for advertising purposes.

It also said that it put a block on the practice in September 2019 to ensure that gathered phone numbers and emails no longer had any connection with targeted ads served on the site.

The allegation therefore isn’t about whether the incident happened, but whether it violated the agreement between Twitter and the FTC.

Digital Trends has reached out to Twitter for more information on the issue and we will update this article when we hear back.

To be clear, the expected fine has nothing to do with the major hack that recently targeted a number of high-profile Twitter accounts in a scam that tricked some followers into sending money to the perpetrators.

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