Twitter could be fined up to $250 million for ad targeting and privacy violations

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As more revelations surface during the investigation of the recent Twitter hack, it appears as if the social media platform has quite a bit of work to do as far as its internal processes are concerned. The latest incident it has to contend with is a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into ad targeting conducted by the platform in October of last year.

Said ad targeting was disclosed by Twitter to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), where it was revealed that user phone numbers and email addresses were used in order to target ads.

More specifically, the FTC is looking into Twitter’s, “use of phone number and/or email address data provided for safety and security purposes for targeted advertising during periods between 2013 and 2019”.

As Engadget points out, Twitter did confirm that it inadvertently matched user phone numbers and email adverts provided for two-factor verification with marketing lists advertisers had uploaded.

Despite its acknowledgement, Twitter has not escaped the FTC investigation, with a notice being issued on 28th July. The draft complaint cites a 2011 agreement that the social media platform signed with with FTC, which has now been violated according to the information disclosed in the aforementioned SEC report.

It also looks like Twitter is ready to accept any punishment issued by the FTC, having already set aside $150 million for any fines incurred, according to The Financial Times (paywall).

That figure could increase to $250 million, or potentially more depending on the severity of Twitter’s violation. Facebook for example, had to pay $5 billion for similar ad targeting violations, but there were several instances of such behaviour, resulting in the larger fine.

Either way, the midway point of 2020 has been less than ideal for Twitter.

At the time of writing it remains to be seen when the FTC’s investigation will conclude.

[Image – Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.