Twitter apologizes for using security info on users for ads

Twitter apologizes for using security info on users for ads

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Twitter announced Tuesday that it accidentally used phone numbers and email addresses provided by its users for security purposes, to serve them with ads instead.

How it works: Some of Twitter's users give the platform their email addresses or phone numbers for safety and login verification purposes, such as the two-factor authentication, that requires individuals to type in a unique code and their password every time they log in, to get access to their account.

The incident: Advertisers on Twitter can upload their own lists, containing customer information, to match users on the platform and target them directly with ad campaigns. In the process, Twitter "may have matched people on Twitter" to a marketer's list "based on the email or phone number the Twitter account holder provided for safety and security purposes."

The announcement: "We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) this data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system," reads the blog post.

“We cannot say with certainty how many people were impacted by this. We’re very sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don’t make a mistake like this again.”

Likely troubles: Facebook's similar privacy issues led to a fine of  $5 billion – the largest fine levied by the Federal Trade Commission on a tech company.

"Given that Facebook got dinged for this exact practice, I think it likely meets the threshold of material omission or even deception under Section 5 on its own. That's further compounded by the fact that Twitter is also under order already by the FTC, " Ashkan Soltani, a former chief technologist at the FTC, told the Washington Post.

Earlier this year, Twitter shared some location data with an unnamed third-party partner and disclosed to its users that some of their private tweets have been made public due to a security flaw.

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