Last week, the United States Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, took action against Twitter, Inc. for allegedly using private account security data to sell targeted advertisements without informing the platform’s users. To settle the matter, Twitter agreed to a stipulated order requiring the social media giant to pay $150 million in civil penalties, which the court entered a day after the complaint was filed.
Understanding the recent settlement warrants a quick history lesson on Twitter’s dealings with the FTC. In 2010, the FTC filed an administrative complaint against Twitter, asserting the company misrepresented the security measures it had in place to protect private user information from unauthorized access and to honor users’ privacy choices. This ultimately led to a 2011 FTC Order that barred Twitter from misrepresenting the extent to which it “maintains and protects security, privacy, confidentiality, or integrity of any nonpublic consumer information.”