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Twitter has settled with the Federal Trade Commission after it was accused of deceiving consumers regarding their privacy settings. The FTC argued that Twitter deceived consumers and failed to properly protect their personal information. The FTC complaint cited "serious lapses" during 2009 in the company's ability to restrict unauthorized users from accessing the private data of Twitter users.
A total of 55 accounts were hacked and illegally accessed during breaches in January and April 2009. The hackers used a password guessing tool to guess the Twitter administrator password, which was a "weak, lowercase, letter-only, common dictionary word," according to the FTC complaint. The complaint goes on to blame Twitter for the attacks, stating that Twitter failed to take reasonable steps to prevent unauthorized control of the site.
Several of the accounts were of high profile people, including the account of President Obama. After gaining access to the President's account, the hackers posted a tweet offering his followers a chance to win $500 in free gasoline.
Twitter's general counsel, Alexander Macgillivary said in a interview with the Wall Street Journal that the incidents happened when the company had only 50 employees and "put simply, we were the victim of an attack and user accounts were improperly accessed."
Twitter is now required to maintain an information security program that will be monitored and audited by a third party every second year for the next ten years.
David Vladeck, who serves as the director of FTC consumer protection, stated that when a company says they will keep information private, they are under a legal obligation to do so. "Consumers who use social networking...have a right to expect that their personal information will be kept private and secure, Vladeck said in a statement reported by the Wall Street Journal.