Twitter has agreed to pay a $150 million fine after federal law enforcement officials accused the social media company of illegally using peoples’ personal data over six years to help sell targeted advertisements.
In court documents made public on Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice say Twitter violated a 2011 agreement with regulators in which the company vowed to not use information gathered for security purposes, like users’ phone numbers and email addresses, to help advertisers target people with ads.
Federal investigators say Twitter broke that promise.
“As the complaint notes, Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of harnessing it for security purposes but then ended up also using the data to target users with ads,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan.
Twitter requires users to provide a telephone number and email address to authenticate accounts. That information also helps people reset their passwords and unlock their accounts when the company blocks logging in due to suspicious activity.
But until at least September 2019, Twitter was also using that information to boost its advertising business by allowing advertisers access to users’ phone numbers and email addresses. That ran afoul of the agreement the company had with regulators.