Twitter Urges Judge To Terminate Privacy Settlement With FTC

Twitter is asking a federal judge to terminate a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission that requires the company to maintain a privacy and security program, and to obtain independent evaluations of that program.

In a motion filed Thursday, Twitter argues the FTC's investigation of the company's compliance with the settlement “has spiraled out of control and become tainted by bias.”

The consent decree, entered into in May of 2022, stemmed from allegations that Twitter misled users by asking for their phone numbers and email addresses for security purposes, but then drew on the information for ad targeting. That activity, according to the FTC, violated a 2011 settlement that prohibited the company from misleading consumers about privacy. That 2011 order stemmed from allegations that security glitches at Twitter resulted in hackers obtaining access to some users' names, passwords and private messages.

Soon after Elon Musk took over Twitter last October, numerous employees exited the company, including members of the privacy and security team. When those departures became public, the FTC said it was “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.”

“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees,” a spokesperson stated at the time.

Twitter alleges in its new motion that after Musk acquired the platform, the FTC “embarked on a new campaign of unceasing demands, demanding responses to long lists of wide-ranging questions and requiring burdensome document productions.”

The company specifically says that since the acquisition, the FTC has issued 16 letters demanding information. By contrast, the agency issued a total of 28 demand letters between 2011 and last year, according to the complaint.

Twitter also alleges that the FTC is wrongly attempting to question Musk at a deposition, when he has only a "high-level supervisory role" regarding the privacy program. 

"A reasonable observer easily can conclude that the FTC has no legitimate basis for deposing Mr. Musk," Twitter alleges in its motion, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The company is now seeking a judicial order either terminating the consent decree or staying its enforcement, and an order that would force the FTC to hold off on deposing Musk.

An FTC spokesperson declined to comment.

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