Twitter has apologised for using personal data of users to tailor advertisements. The firm claims that this was done inadvertently and that it’s now taking steps to ensure that it doesn’t make the mistake again. For those concerned about what has happened, the company has published a form that you can use to contact Twitter’s Office of Data Protection.
According to Twitter, if you’ve provided an email address or a phone number for security purposes on the platform then that data may have been used to adjust the advertisements that you see. In its statement, the firm claims that it doesn’t know how many people were impacted but did confirm that it had addressed the issue as of September 17, so if you signed up after this date you were not affected.
Explaining exactly how the blunder happened, Twitter said:
“Tailored Audiences is a version of an industry-standard product that allows advertisers to target ads to customers based on the advertiser's own marketing lists (e.g., email addresses or phone numbers they have compiled). Partner Audiences allows advertisers to use the same Tailored Audiences features to target ads to audiences provided by third-party partners. 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. This was an error and we apologize.”
While this is not a good incident for Twitter, there are some positives to the story, namely that things didn’t turn out as bad as they could have. The social media giant said that while user data was wrongly used for ad purposes, none of that information was ever shared with partners or any other third parties.