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Twitter will pay $150 million in fines for allegedly failing to protect users' privacy according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Ryan Robertson

Anchor/Investigative Reporter

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Privacy violations cost Twitter $150 million

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Ryan Robertson

Anchor/Investigative Reporter

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$150 million. That’s how much Twitter will pay in fines for allegedly failing to protect the privacy of users’ data during a six-year span. The Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission announced the settlement over privacy violations with the social media company Wednesday.

The settlement comes after the Justice Department and the FTC accused Twitter of violating a 2011 FTC order by lying to users about how well it maintained and protected the privacy and security of their nonpublic contact information.

San Francisco-based Twitter told its 229 million users that from May 2013 to September 2019, it was collecting users’ phone numbers and email addresses for account security. However, federal regulators said Twitter didn’t tell users it would also use the contact information to help third-party companies create targeted online ads on the platform.

According to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, Twitter also lied when it claimed to be following U.S. privacy agreements with the European Union and Switzerland.

“Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of harnessing it for security purposes but then ended up also using the data to target users with ads,” FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. “This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue.”

U.S. officials pointed out that of the $3.4 billion in revenue Twitter earned in 2019, about $3 billion was from advertising.

Twitter made $5 billion in revenue in 2021. It said in a filing earlier this month it had put aside $150 million after agreeing “in principle” upon a penalty with the FTC.

Billionaire Elon Musk, who is buying the service for $44 billion, has criticized its ads-driven business model and pledged to diversify its revenue sources.

“If Twitter was not truthful here, what else is not true? This is very concerning news,” Musk said in a tweet late Wednesday,

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.