Twitter and your privacy

FTC Consumer Alert
May 28, 2022

Twitter introduced the world to the concept of communicating in short tweets. But the FTC says that doesn’t mean taking shortcuts with people’s privacy. Today, the FTC announced that Twitter must pay $150 million to settle a complaint — filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on the FTC’s behalf — saying that Twitter collected users’ information for one purpose (to secure accounts) and used it for another (targeted advertising).

According to the complaint, Twitter told people it was collecting users’ telephone numbers and email addresses for various security purposes — like enabling multi-factor authentication (a security feature that requires additional steps beyond logging in with a password). But the FTC says Twitter didn’t tell people that their information was also used to target them with ads. Today’s settlement means Twitter must put into place a comprehensive privacy and data security program to protect users’ data. Twitter must also disclose why and how it collects, shares, and uses your personal information and offer a multi-factor authentication option that doesn’t require you to give a phone number.

The lesson here?

  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. This helps protect your information because it makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts even if they manage to steal your username and password.
  • Choose forms of multi-factor authentication that don’t involve personal information if offered. This protects your privacy, too. Look for things like authentication apps or physical tokens. If you have to choose security questions, select questions only you know the answer to. You can even put in random answers to make guessing more difficult. If you do that, though, you’ll have to remember the answers you use.
  • Check your privacy settings. If you don’t want to get targeted ads, look in your privacy settings to see if you can opt out. Some platforms let you do that. To avoid targeted ads more broadly, check out the National Advertising Initiative and the Digital Advertising Alliance.