Twitter is accused of selling users’ contact information to advertisers without their knowledge and will pay a $150 million fine as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

According to NPR, the settlement was announced on Wednesday and was reached in response to accusations that Twitter collected the phone numbers and email addresses of its users (apparently only for security reasons), but then sold the access to this information to advertisers without informing its users.


The FTC and the Justice Department said that by doing so, Twitter violates a 2011 agreement in which it had previously promised not to use this information for targeted ads. This apparently lasted for six years, until September 2019, when Twitter said it stopped doing this.

If you’re a Twitter user and reset your account or unlocked it, chances are you’ve provided the information that Twitter apparently sold to advertisers. NPR also notes that “according to federal prosecutors,” more than 140 million users provided their contact information because of Twitter’s “misleading claims.”

In a blog post published Wednesday, Twitter’s chief privacy officer, Damien Kieran, released a statement regarding the settlement. In the statement, Kieran confirms that Twitter has “paid a $150 million fine” as part of the settlement reached with the FTC. Kieran also described the breach that Twitter was accused of as “a disclosed privacy incident in 2019 when certain email addresses and phone numbers provided for account security purposes may have been inadvertently used for advertising purposes.”

In addition to paying the penalty, Kieran mentions that Twitter has “aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements to ensure that people’s personal data remains secure and their privacy protected.”

If Twitter wasn’t truthful here, what else isn’t? This is very worrying news.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 26, 2022

News of the settlement and its charges couldn’t come at a worse time for the Bird app. Twitter is in the midst of what now appears to be a blocked takeover bid by Elon Musk and must defend itself against speculation about the actual percentage of spam and bot accounts on its platform.

Musk has been one of the loudest voices regarding the spam and bot problem, frequently questioning the accuracy of Twitter’s percentage estimate. And in response to this news about the FTC settlement, Musk apparently tweeted his concern about Twitter’s honesty, in response to another Twitter user’s post about the FTC’s investigation and settlement.

It’s unclear at this time how or if this latest news will affect Musk’s decision to buy Twitter.

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