Twitter settles data privacy complaint with FTC

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Microblogging site Twitter settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived customers and put their privacy at risk by failing to safeguard their personal data. It marks the first time the FTC has brought a data security case against a social network.

The FTC claimed that serious lapses in Twitter's data security allowed hackers to gain control of Twitter accounts, then send out phony Tweets pretending to be others, according to a statement from the agency.

Twitter is banned from misleading consumers about the extent to which it maintains and protects their security, privacy and confidentiality for 20 years. The company must also establish and maintain an IT security program, which must be checked by a third party every other year for a decade.

Twitter said on its corporate blog that the attacks took place in early 2009, “when Twitter employed less than 50 people,” and that it has already implemented security procedures.

“Even before the agreement, we'd implemented many of the FTC's suggestions and the agreement formalizes our commitment to those security practices,” the company said on its corporate blog.

Marketers have turned to Twitter in the past year to reach consumers. The social network changed its terms of service last September to allow for advertising on the platform. In April, it launched the Promoted Tweets marketing service, with marketers including Starbucks, Best Buy and Virgin America among its first users.

A number of companies have also released Twitter measurement and analytics tools in recent months.

Augie Ray, senior analyst at Forrester, said the settlement is generally “a non-event for Twitter.”

“Twitter users do not have the same general level of concern about privacy as do those on Facebook, although of course everyone cares about maintaining security around user profiles, access and passwords,” he said via e-mail. “But given the small number of accounts affected and the fact Twitter security has generally been good and reliable, I don't believe today's news will have any significant impact on Twitter.”

Representatives from Twitter and the FTC did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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