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Oops! Twitter ‘sorry’ for sharing user data with advertisers without permission. What’s new?

Oops! Twitter ‘sorry’ for sharing user data with advertisers without permission. What’s new?
Another day, another social media platform issuing an apology for sharing users’ data without permission. Twitter is the latest to “discover” that some of its settings went awry and shared private information for ad targeting.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Twitter admitted that it had recently “found issues” which meant that users’ settings choices “may not have worked as intended” and personal data was consequently shared with advertisers. But since it was kind enough to apologize, it looks like Twitter thinks it should all just be water under the bridge.

You trust us to follow your choices and we failed here. We’re sorry this happened, and are taking steps to make sure we don’t make a mistake like this again.

The company said it resolved the issue on August 5, but didn’t mention when exactly it “realized” that it was sharing its users data without consent, only saying that it had been “recently.” That’s a crucial point, because according to TechCrunch, it may indicate that Twitter is in breach of Europe’s GDPR framework, which came into effect in May 2018 (around the same time Twitter says the issues occurred), and which mandates disclosure of data breaches.

Uh oh.

The glitch meant that people who clicked on or viewed ads for mobile applications and then interacted with that application “may have” had certain data shared with the company’s advertising partners, “even if you didn't give us permission to do so.” 

Users may also have been shown ads “based on inferences we made about the devices you use.” In plain English, that means Twitter may have shown users ads based on their interests, which were tracked unknowingly. 

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The long and short of it is that users once again made privacy choices in their settings – and a social media company just went ahead and overlooked them. Mistake or not, this does seem to be happening with alarming regularity.

Only three months ago, Twitter admitted that another bug had caused people’s location data to be shared in certain situations without permission. Last year, it advised all of its 330 million users to change their passwords after a bug exposed them in plain text.

Facebook has been an even worse offender, repeatedly finding itself caught up in scandal after scandal; the worst of which may have been when it allowed data from as many as 87 million users to fall into the hands of shady political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook was ultimately whacked with a $5 billion fine for the violations. 

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In a stunningly brazen move this year, Facebook even began asking new users for the password to their private email accounts. With a privacy record like theirs, what could possibly go wrong? 

So frequent are these Facebook screw-ups that even CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that the company does not “currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services.” 

Twitter said the data involved in the recent breaches “stayed within Twitter” and did not contain elements like passwords or email addresses. It also said it is still conducting an investigation to determine who may have been impacted. “If we discover more information that is useful we will share it,” the post said. 

Phew!

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