Twitter settles privacy case for $150 million

Twitter is offering $150 million to end a years-long privacy lawsuit. In addition, the microblog had to take “strong measures” to protect user privacy. The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are enforcing the measures.

The US Department of Justice reports this in a press statement.

Twitter secretly sold users’ personal data

The ministry and the consumer watchdog believe that Twitter has misled for years about where the company uses phone numbers and email addresses. Twitter has always said it needs this data to secure access to accounts. What the microblogging service failed to mention is that it also sold this data to advertisers. That happened from May 2013 to September 2019.

Twitter is also accused of not complying with the terms of the Privacy Shield. This includes agreements on the exchange, storage and accessibility of data between the US and the EU. The privacy agreement states, among other things, that a company may not use for purposes for which users have not given explicit permission.

In the summer of 2020, the European Court of Justice cancelled the Privacy Shield. The judge ruled that the US did not offer the same level of protection as in Europe. Because the principle of proportionality could not be guaranteed, the Privacy Shield could no longer serve as a basis for data exchange with America. After almost two years of negotiations, there is now an agreement in principle on data exchange between the EU and the US.

Twitter agrees to settlement proposal

The Justice Department and the FTC have submitted a $150 million settlement offer. If Twitter agreed and promised to take new measures to ensure user privacy, the lawsuit would be dropped.

Twitter has agreed to the proposal, ending a years-long legal battle. As mentioned, the microblogging service must implement the necessary privacy measures. The company must develop and maintain a privacy and information security program and regularly test its privacy safeguards. If Twitter wants to launch a new service in the future, it must first conduct a privacy review.

Twitter must also have its privacy program regularly monitored by an independent reviewer, submit an annual compliance certificate, report on any privacy incident involving 250 or more users, and meet a variety of reporting and record-keeping obligations.

The Department of Justice and the FTC are responsible for overseeing Twitter’s compliance with the agreements.

Right to be informed

“Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of using it for security purposes. But in the end, it also used this data to target users with advertisements. This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while it was the main source of revenue for Twitter,” FTC chairman Lina Khan said of the settlement.

Attorney General Stephanie Hinds agrees. “Consumers who share their private information have a right to know whether that information is being used to help advertisers target their customers. Social media companies that are not honest with consumers about how their personal information is used will be held accountable.”

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