Twitter apologizes after ‘accidentally’ using phone numbers and emails intended for security purposes to serve users ads
- Twitter says it accidentally misused phone numbers and emails from users
- The information was provided for security but used to help serve ads
- Ad partners were able to use the data
Twitter says it inadvertently used user phone numbers intended to help bolster their security to serve them ads instead.
In a statement on Tuesday, the company said it accidentally doled out phone numbers and emails to ad partners that participate in its Partner Audience program.
‘We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication),’ reads the blog post.
‘This data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our and Partner Audiences advertising system.’
Twitter, helmed by CEO Jack Dorsey (pictured above), admitted to using information provided to the platform for security purposes to serve them ads instead (File photo)
Specifically, the numbers were intended to set up two-factor authentication, in which users can secure their account from would-be hackers by using their mobile device or email as a fail-safe.
If a password is entered incorrectly too many times or Twitter detects a sign-in on a new device that hasn’t been associated with one’s account, the company sends a code to a registered phone number or email address.
Instead, however, Twitter says it inadvertently used the information to help match users’ accounts with stores they may shopped at.
This allowed ad partners that had access to a person’s phone number – i.e. a pharmacy or any retailer with a rewards program – to match that number with a customer’s Twitter account and advertise directly to them on the platform.
‘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,’ Twitter said in its statement.
‘This was an error and we apologize.’
Facebook was found to be ‘accidentally’ engaged in a similar practice in March when it copped to using phone numbers provided for two-factor authentication for advertising (Stock photo)
Twitter says it doesn’t have an estimate on how many users were affected by the purported snafu and states the issue was corrected on September 17, but just recently disclosed the fix.
This isn’t the first time a major platform has copped to using personal information provided for security to help serve ads.
Facebook said it had also made a strikingly similar mistake in March when it admitted to correlating phone numbers intended for security with targeted advertising.
In an examination of Northeastern University last year, researchers found that after a person gave a phone number to Facebook for two-factor authentication purposes or log-in alerts, that phone number was targeted by advertisers within a few weeks.