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Twitter used 2FA phone numbers for ad targeting

09 October 2019

Anyone who's had a cheeky Google search for an item only for it to miraculously pop up on your news feed will know it's frustratingly convenient and, in some cases, full-blown creepy. Don't use phone-number-based 2FA. For example, if you'd given your phone number to a pharmacy chain for discounts, that chain could advertise to you on Twitter based on that same phone number.

The next time you see Facebook ads for, say, erectile dysfunction pills or egg freezing, you can check to see why you were targeted by those brands and where the companies got your data. Last month, some 419 million phone numbers were left exposed on an unprotected Facebook server, leaving countless users vulnerable to spam calls, as well as more serious security breaches.

Twitter said this was a bug, and not something it meant to do.

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Twitter Inc said on Tuesday (Oct 8) email addresses and phone numbers uploaded by users to meet its security requirements may have been "inadvertently" used for advertising purposes.

The company apologized for this error and says that it's taking measures to make sure that a similar mistake will not happen again.

"We can not say with certainty how many people were impacted by this, but in an effort to be transparent, we wanted to make everyone aware".

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The company maintained that it never shared "personal data" with partners or other outsiders and that it had resolved the problem as of September 17th.

This would basically allow advertisers to match customers with appropriate ads by tallying their own list of email addresses and phone numbers with ones the user has provided to Twitter.

In a blog post, Twitter explained that users share email addresses and phone numbers with the company for safety and log-in verification purposes, such as two-factor authentication, which allows people to receive one-time codes that they input along with their passwords to access their accounts. From here, you'll get a full screen of all the data you've been opted into so deselect whichever ones you no longer want.

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Twitter used 2FA phone numbers for ad targeting