Twitter has released a statement that personal data such as email address or phone number may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes specifically in its "Tailored Audiences" and "Partner Audiences" ad system. According to Twitter, 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 which include email addresses or phone numbers they have compiled.
Meanwhile, "Partner Audiences" allows advertisers to use the same "Tailored Audiences" features to target ads to audiences provided by third-party partners. The social network company said in a blog post that when an advertiser uploaded their marketing list, the company might 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.
However, the statement read that Twitter does not have specific numbers as to who has been impacted by this. According to Twitter, it is currently working on steps to ensure this does not happen again.
"In an effort to be transparent, we wanted to make everyone aware. No personal data was ever shared externally with our partners or any other third parties. As of 17 September, we have addressed the issue that allowed this to occur and are no longer using phone numbers or email addresses collected for safety or security purposes for advertising," Twitter said in a statement.
The social networking company had previously admitted to sharing user data without their permission. Since May 2018, Twitter said that certain data points such as country code, whether consumers engaged with the ad, and information about the ad were shared with “trusted” measurement and ad partners without users’ permission.
It also admitted to having shown users ads based on inferences it made about the devices they use since September 2018, even if Twitter was not granted the permission to do so. It explained that this is part of a process it undertakes to try and serve more relevant advertising on the platform. However, Twitter clarified that the data involved stayed within Twitter and did not contain information such as passwords and email accounts.
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