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Twitter agrees to pay $150 million fine for misrepresenting privacy policy

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Twitter agrees to pay $150 million fine for misrepresenting privacy policy
Twitter agreed to pay a $150 million fine for misrepresenting its privacy and security practices, the Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

May 25 (UPI) -- Twitter has agreed to pay a $150 million fine for misrepresenting its privacy and security practices, the Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday.

The FTC is taking the action against Twitter for deceptively using account security data for targeted advertising, the commission said in a statement.

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Twitter asked users to provide their phone numbers and email addresses to protect their accounts. But the company then allowed advertisers to use the data to target specific users, profiting in the process

"As the complaint notes, 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 Chairwoman Lina Khan.

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"This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter's primary source of revenue."

The complaint filed by the Justice Department says Twitter began asking users for either a phone number or email address to improve account security, starting in 2013.

The company then collected that information from more than 140 million of its users, between 2014 and 2019, without mentioning that it also would be used for targeted advertising, according to the FTC.

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"The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the privacy of consumers' sensitive data," associate U.S. Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement.

"The $150 million penalty reflects the seriousness of the allegations against Twitter, and the substantial new compliance measures to be imposed as a result of today's proposed settlement will help prevent further misleading tactics that threaten users' privacy."

The news comes the same day billionaire Elon Musk upped his personal financial commitment to $33.5 billion to purchase Twitter and take it private.

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Also Wednesday, Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey announced he was stepping down from the company's board of directors. His departure was planned, as he focuses on the business he founded in 2009, Block, previously known as Square.

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