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Twitter fined $150m for selling data

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Twitter gathered phone numbers and email addresses for security purposes, but there was a hidden motive, says the FTC.

Twitter was fined $150 million (£119 million) in the United States after law enforcement officials accused Twitter of illegally utilizing users’ data to help sell targeted ads.

According to court records, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice claim that Twitter violated a contract with regulators. The FTC is an independent US government organization tasked with enforcing anti-trust laws and promoting consumer protection.

Twitter has previously stated that it would not provide advertisers with personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses. According to federal investigators, the social media company violated the rules.

In December 2020, Twitter was fined £400,000 for violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data privacy standards in Europe.

Twitter was also accused of breaching a 2011 FTC order that explicitly prohibited the company from misrepresenting its privacy and security practices.

Twitter generates most of its revenue from advertising on its platform. It allows users, ranging from consumers to celebrities to corporations, to post 280-character messages or tweets.

According to a complaint filed by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC, Twitter began requesting users’ phone numbers or email addresses in 2013 to strengthen account security.

FTC chair Lina Khan said that Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of harnessing it for security purposes but used that data to target users with ads.

She claimed that this practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users and boosted the company’s source of revenue in the years between 2013-2019.

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