Twitter Accidentally Used Phone Numbers And Emails For Targeted Ads

Twitter: No, really, we're very sorry we sold your security info for a boatload of cash

Your email address or phone number - whichever you used for two-factor authentication or security purposes.

Twitter said when advertisers uploaded their marketing lists, it may have matched people on the platform to their list based on the email or phone number provided by account holders.

That information is supposed to be used exclusively for account protection purposes, but Twitter said advertisers were able to tap the phone numbers to target commercials, through the company's "Tailored Audiences" and "Partner Audiences advertising system".

The company said this was "an error" and that the information should not have been used for ad targeting.

None of the user data was shared with partners outside the company, and it was unclear how many people were affected, the San Francisco-based company said. Customers who want to ask for more info on this incident can contact Twitter's Office of Data Protection through this form.


The company issued a statement saying that the misuse of that information was a "mistake" and was "inadvertent". "We're very sorry this happened", Twitter wrote Tuesday in a blog.

Facebook was called out for doing the exact same thing previous year. The resulting settlement requires the company to maintain a comprehensive data security policy and refrain from misrepresenting the way it handles and protects users' data, violations of which could carry fines.

The Partner Audiences advertising system, on the other hand, makes it possible for advertisers to target users from lists provided by third-party partners. However, Twitter admitted that some advertisers were able to use that information to target ads through its "Tailored Audiences" and "Partner Audiences" advertising systems.

The incident is just the latest is a series of security lapses at Twitter in recent years. This had been a known security flaw for some time, but was only taken down after the account of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was compromised. People have added secondary email addresses and their phone numbers to help secure their accounts.

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