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Twitter Admits User Phone Numbers, Email Data Used For Ads, But Refuses To Reveal Damage

Twitter Admits User Phone Numbers, Email Data Used For Ads, But Refuses To Reveal Damage

Email addresses and phone numbers might have been misused

No personal data was shared externally by Twitter

No reports on the number of people impacted have come out yet

In a recent incident of a data breach, Twitter has confirmed that user data like email addresses and phone numbers provided by users for security purposes may have been unintentionally used for advertising purposes. 

According to a news report, currently, Twitter is unable to share with certainty the number of people impacted by the breach. However, the US-based company also asserted that no personal data was ever shared externally with their partners or any other third parties.  

In a statement, Twitter highlighted that the personal data, which were provided for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) may have been inadvertently used for advertising purposes, specifically in their Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system, which helps in creating relevant remarketing campaigns. 

While explaining how the breach occurred, Twitter is a statement said, “When an advertiser uploaded their marketing list, it may have matched people on our platform to that list based on the email or phone number that the user had provided for safety and security purposes.”

As of September 17, Twitter has acknowledged the problem and claimed that it has stopped using numbers or email addresses collected for safety or security purposes, for advertising. 

Although Twitter apologised for this error, it also shared that they have no idea how many people were impacted by this. “We’re very sorry this happened and are taking steps to make sure we don’t make a mistake like this again,” the microblogging site added in the statement. 

Twitter’s average monetisable daily active usage (mDAU) has grown from 122 million in 2018 June quarter to 139 million (29 Mn in the US and 110 Mn from international markets) in 2019 June quarter. Even in the previous quarter, it had a mDAU of 134 million.  

Data Breach On Rise: How Is India Protecting Itself? 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has touted data as the new oil and new gold and rightly so as it has become very lucrative for hackers to steal and sell the same. Earlier, online food delivery startups Zomato, and FreshMenu, fintech startup EarlySalary, McDonald’s India, Oyo, Ashley Madison, Sony, and many others have been the victims of data breaches.

Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook have also been affected by a data breach by advertisers. Recently, Instagram Ad partner was banned for scraping user data without consent. Even Facebook-linked phone numbers of over 419 Mn users were found on unsecured servers.

Whatsapp, which was planning to introduce its payments feature WhatsApp Payments by the end of this year, is also facing difficulties because of the government’s concerns over the messaging platform’s data localisation compliance. In September, National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) had asked WhatsApp to make changes in its policy to get the final approval for the launch of payments in India. NPCI had asked the instant messaging app to make changes in its data-compliance framework that prohibits storing payment data outside of India.

In May, India was reported as the second most cyberattacks affected country between the years 2016 to 2018. With the average cost for a data breach in India increased to 7.9% since 2017, the average cost per breached record has mounted to INR 4,552 ($64).

The Reserve Bank of India too recorded a total of 2,059 cases of cyber fraud in 2017-18 as compared to 1,372 cyber fraud cases in 2016-17.

Author

Inc42 Staff
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