Twitter recently apologized to its users for misusing personal data for advertising purposes. The social media platform said that “inadvertently” used data meant for security purposes to target people with ads.
The social media platform made the apology through an official statement on its blog. In the statement, Twitter stated that some email addresses and phone numbers which user provided for security reasons were used for advertising purposes. Usually, users give out this information (email address and phone number) to enable two-factor identification. According to Twitter, the information was exposed through its Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising systems.
The social media platform didn’t mention exactly how many of its users were impacted by the breach of security. But they assured its users that no personal data was ever shared externally with its partners or any other third parties. They also assured its users that they have addressed the issue.
About Tailored Audiences and Partner Audience
Tailored Audiences is a version of an industry-standard product that allows advertisers to target ads to customers based on the advertiser’s own marketing lists (e.g., email addresses or phone numbers they have compiled). Partner Audiences allows advertisers to use the same Tailored Audiences features to target ads to audiences provided by third-party partners.
Quotes from the Statement
“When an advertiser uploaded their marketing list, we may have matched people on Twitter to their list based on the email or phone number the Twitter account holder provided for safety and security purposes,” the social media platform said. “This was an error and we apologize.”
“As of September 17, we have addressed the issue that allowed this to occur and are no longer using phone numbers or email addresses collected for safety or security purposes for advertising,” Twitter said.
This issue comes just two months after the social media platform admitted to another mistake. They admitted to improperly sharing personal data, such as a user’s country code, with advertisers in August.
Social media platforms are working on properly managing personal data as regulators grow intolerant of digital privacy mishaps. In July, The Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook $5bn for improperly handling user data. That fine was the largest fine ever imposed on a company for violating consumers’ privacy.