Twitter is down in the dumps again. This time, it has nothing to do with Elon Musk. The platform is accused of selling its users’ telephone numbers without permission. As if people would have been okay with this if Twitter had filled its customers in beforehand. The company faces a fine of $150 million (R2.35 billion) as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US.
It’s not as if Twitter just did this recently – reports indicate that this was ongoing for the better part of six years. Twitter is in violation of an agreement it made in 2011 which was set in place to stop Twitter from doing exactly this. Twitter eventually stopped selling the data in 2019, but is now reaping the consequences.
In a blog post, the company’s Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran confirmed the fine. The platform has apparently already paid its “$150 million USD penalty” to the FTC.
Twitter described the controversy not as a way to make easy money, but rather as an accident.
“We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) this data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system.”
Kieran also said that the service has “…aligned with the agency on operational updates and program enhancements to ensure that people’s personal data remains secure and their privacy protected.”
Elongating the situation
And just when we think Elon Musk isn’t involved, he turns up to give his two cents. Maybe that’s how we can summon him – just mention Twitter and Musk in the same space and bam! He shows up in a puff of smoke. Elon Musk responded to a tweet slamming Twitter for its unethical ‘accident’.
If Twitter was not truthful here, what else is not true? This is very concerning news.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 26, 2022
The news of Twitter’s fine might help Musk at the moment. He’s right in the middle of a ‘delayed’ plan to buy the platform outright. Musk could use the uncertainty of what the company may be hiding to his advantage. It might further stall the deal or prompt a cheaper price.
Twitter will be looking to leave this ordeal behind as soon as possible. And, as long as it doesn’t continue to sell users’ information, the Bird should escape relatively unscathed.