Social media platform Twitter has been accused of unfairly profiting from the personal data of 14.1 million U.K. citizens after using their personal details provided for account security reasons for targeted advertising without their consent.
The Telegraph reports that following Twitter’s admission that the firm “inadvertently” used email addresses and phone numbers meant to be used for user account security for targeted advertising purposes, the company has come under harsh criticism from government officials.
Tory MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons’ Digital Committee, claimed that the firm was abusing users’ rights in order to generate more profit by targeting them with personalized ads.
This is a significant breach and a ‘hands up apology’ is not enough for Twitter to escape a thorough investigation into how individuals’ data could have been misused. Unintentional use is no defense. People trust that their personal data – email addresses and phone numbers – are safe in the hands of tech companies, who have a legal duty to keep it safe.
All of Twitter’s 140 million users could have been affected by the alleged “mistake” but the firm has yet to publish any official figures on the issue. Silkie Carlo, of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, called Twitter’s latest mistake a “profoundly disappointing reflection” on the attitude that social media firms have towards user privacy, security, and data rights.
Alan Woodward, a data privacy expert at the University of Surrey, criticized the firm for failing to notify individual users about whether or not their personal data had been used for targeted advertising. Woodward stated: “The fact that Twitter may have passed on your telephone number doesn’t undermine the security of the two-factor authentication process really. It’s more a trust issue now: should I minimize the amount of data I give to big tech companies even if it might keep me secure?”
Twitter claims to have addressed the issue as of September 17 and stated that none of the data was shared externally with its partners.