FTC Seeks Injunction Against Twitter for Unlawful Targeted Ads

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against Twitter alleging they have violated the FTC Act. It’s alleged that Twitter misrepresented the extent to which it maintained and protected the security and privacy of users’ non-public contact information. Users were asked to give their phone numbers and email addresses in order to protect their accounts. However, it wasn’t disclosed that by doing this Twitter could then use this contact information to aid advertisers in reaching their preferred audiences. 

Alleged Violations

  • Said that phone numbers and email addresses provided by users would be used for security purposes
    • Between 2014 and 2019 over 140 million users provided these details
  • Used the phone numbers and email addresses to allow advertisers to target specific ads to specific consumers
    • This was done by matching the information with data they already had or obtained from data brokers
  • Violated a 2011 FTC order that explicitly prohibited Twitter from misrepresenting its privacy and security practices
    • This practice boosted their primary source of revenue 
  • Violated the EU-US Privacy Shield and Swiss-US Privacy Shield agreement by processing user information in a manner incompatible with the purpose of collection
  • Misrepresented that it would maintain and protect the privacy of user information collected for security purposes

Proposed Order

The proposed order from the FTC states that Twitter must:

  • Allow users to use other multi-factor authentication methods such as:
    • Mobile authentication apps
    • Security keys that do not require users to provide their telephone numbers
  • Implement and maintain a comprehensive privacy and information security program to examine and address the potential privacy and security risks of new products
  • Notify users that it misused phone numbers and email addresses collected for account security to also target ads to them 
  • Provide users with information about Twitter’s privacy and security controls
  • Notify the FTC if they experience a data breach

See more about Twitter in the news.

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