Twitter Braces for FTC Fine of $150 Million to $250 Million

The commission is investigating the social network’s use of phone numbers for ad targeting

Twitter detailed in its Form 10-Q that it received a draft complaint from the FTC July 28 P_Wei/iStock

Twitter revealed in a Form 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the company over its use of phone numbers for ad targeting, which came to light last October.

The company said in its filing that it is anticipating a potential fine of $150 million to $250 million.

For context, Twitter reported $3.46 billion in revenue for the full year of 2019, and $250 million would represent a little over 7% of that total.

Also for context, the top end of Twitter’s potential fine would pale in comparison to the $5 billion Facebook was tagged with over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement, “Following the announcement of our second-quarter financial results, we received a draft complaint from the FTC alleging violations of our 2011 consent order. Following standard accounting rules, we included an estimated range for settlement in our 10-Q filed Aug. 3.”

Twitter detailed in its Form 10-Q that it received a draft complaint from the FTC July 28, and it noted that it entered into a consent order with the commission in March 2011 to resolve an investigation into various incidents, and that the obligations under that consent order remain in effect until March 2, 2031.

Last October, Twitter temporarily suspended tools that allowed marketers to match phone number lists with Twitter users after disclosing that personal information provided by users for account security purposes had been used for targeted advertising.

The company said at the time that advertisers uploading their marketing lists to Twitter’s Tailored Audiences tool were able to match customers with their email addresses and phone numbers, which were shared to keep their accounts safe through methods including two-factor authentication.

Twitter added last October that marketers were also able to target users via its Partner Audiences tool, which allows advertisers to target their ads to audience lists provided by third parties.

The company said at the time that it didn’t know how many people were affected, but their information was not shared outside the platform, adding that it conducted a one-time removal of all affected users last Sept. 17 to wipe that information from its targeting tools. David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.