Twitter will pay a $150 million fine over accusations it improperly sold user data Federal regulators accuse the company of violating a 2011 agreement over the treatment of users' personal data, including phone numbers and email addresses.

Twitter will pay a $150 million fine over accusations it improperly sold user data

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Twitter will have to pay a $150 million fine to the federal government. Regulators say the company broke the law and used users' personal information to boost profits. Here's NPR's Bobby Allyn.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Say you're locked out of Twitter. You need to confirm your identity with your cell number or email. Turns out Twitter was not just collecting this information for security reasons. Sam Levine leads the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

SAM LEVINE: Twitter went ahead and used those phone numbers to sell ads and pad its own bottom line.

ALLYN: Levine says the FTC had an agreement with Twitter. It could not take data gathered to safeguard security and use that personal information to make money.

LEVINE: If you're telling people you're using their phone numbers to secure their accounts and then you use them for other purposes, you're deceiving them and you're breaking the law.

ALLYN: And so Twitter will pay a $150 million fine. Twitter says it stopped giving advertisers access to this kind of data in 2019 after six years of doing so. The social media company did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement, but did say personal information, quote, "may have been inadvertently used for advertising." Elon Musk, who has made an offer to buy Twitter, has criticized the company for relying too much on ads. Justin Brookman, the director of technology policy at Consumer Reports, said as regulators continue to crack down on targeted ads, companies like Twitter that have relied on tracking tools could be in trouble.

JUSTIN BROOKMAN: I think in some respects, a lot of these tools are going away and companies are going to have to find new ways to make revenue that the days of just printing money from targeted ads are coming to a close.

ALLYN: Not coming to a close - federal oversight. As part of the deal, regulators will be keeping an eye on Twitter's ad practices for the next 20 years.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News.

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