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Following FTC User Privacy Settlement, Private Litigant Goes After Twitter

Twitter website on computer screen.

"Muenster, Germany - May 23, 2011: The twitter website is displayed in web browser on a computer screen. Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service and enabling its users to send and read messages."

Dovetailing on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) $150 million fine last week, a Twitter user has sued the company for the same alleged conduct: using her telephone number and email for advertising purposes under the pretext that it was for security functions like two-factor authentication. 

Tuesday’s complaint argues that Twitter failed to adhere to its own privacy policy, which repeatedly promises that the company respects users’ personally identifying information and will disclose it only with their consent. 

The class action filing largely tracked allegations made by the FTC in its complaint and resulting in the fine last month. The social media company elicited more than 140 million users’ email addresses or telephone numbers based on its representation that their information would be used for account security purposes, the private lawsuit reiterated. Because Twitter actually sold that information to advertisers and brokers, who supply the communication platform with its primary form of revenue, the user accused the company of acting unfairly.

In addition, this week’s complaint pointed out that by engaging in the deceptive conduct, Twitter violated a 2011 FTC order prohibiting misrepresentations “concerning how Twitter maintains email addresses and telephone numbers collected from users.”

The private litigant seeks to certify a class of United States residents who between May 2013  and September 2019 provided their telephone number or email address to Twitter for purposes of two-factor authentication, account recovery, or account re-authentication.

The complaint states two claims for breach of contract, one for violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, and one for unjust enrichment. It seeks various forms of relief including damages and disgorgement. The plaintiff and putative class are represented by Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group.

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