- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday ordered Twitter to pay $150 million in civil penalties for alleged data privacy violations.

The government said Twitter agreed to pay the fine. 

The Justice Department said Twitter collected people’s phone numbers and email addresses while claiming it was for security purposes but then utilized that info for companies to send targeted ads to users.

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 in a statement. “This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue.”

Twitter collected the data between May 2013 and September 2019.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California also accused Twitter of failing to comply with data privacy rules established between the U.S. and Europe. 

“Social media companies that are not honest with consumers about how their personal information is being used will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds in a statement. 

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said the $150 million penalty underscored the seriousness of Twitter’s alleged misconduct, and she said new compliance measures would also be imposed by Twitter

According to the FTC, those measures include such things as notifying users that Twitter misused their account data, limiting employees’ access to people’s data, allowing people to use multi-factor authentication that does not require giving Twitter a person’s phone number, and prohibitions on Twitter making money off of the data collected. 

The government’s order is awaiting the approval of a federal judge. Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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