Published: Wed, October 09, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Twitter used 2FA phone numbers for ad targeting

Twitter used 2FA phone numbers for ad targeting

The social network has learned that phone numbers and email addresses provided for safety and security (including two-factor authentication) might have "inadvertently" been used for ad purposes, Engadget observed.

This would basically allow advertisers to match customers with appropriate ads by tallying their own list of email addresses and phone numbers with ones the user has provided to Twitter.

"This was an error and we apologize", the company said. In that case, the Federal Trade Commission alleged Facebook deceived users because it "did not disclose, or did not adequately disclose" that phone numbers provided through its security tool for the objective of two-factor authentication "also would be used by Facebook to target advertisements to those users". Twitter says it fixed the problem as of September 17.

Twitter didn't know how many people might have been affected, though, and was reporting this primarily to be "transparent" about what happened. Companies can send Twitter lists of emails and phones that they have created themselves and then target them with ads on the platform, but it seems in this case Twitter matched them with private security information.

"We're very sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don't make a mistake like this again", Twitter said.

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The admission indicates that Twitter deliberately took users' 2FA mobile phone numbers and repurposed them to help advertisers. The Federal Trade Commission ordered the social-media giant to stop the practice in July as part of a $5 billion privacy settlement.

The company admitted the error in a blog post on Tuesday, stating that the user information was unintentionally mixed up with its targeting advertisement program, known as "Tailored Audiences".

It's the latest in a series of security lapses at Twitter in the past year.

This security mishap was subsequently discovered by a research team after the phone numbers added to test accounts were actively being targeted by advertisers after just a couple of weeks.

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