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Twitter scrambled to hire "Ads Policy Specialists" before it admitted to sharing user data with advertisers

2 weeks ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in News, Trends

Twitter ($NYSE:TWTR) has some trust and safety issues on its hands.

Yesterday, it was revelaed that Twitter used users' phone numbers — originally intended for two-factor login security — to help advertisers target ads. The revelation is calling into question how Twitter uses — and makes available to business partners — users' private information.

The timeline of events here is curious:

On September 17, Twitter addressed an "error" that allowed advertisers to target users based on phone numbers. The same day, it posted an ad for someone to address the problem. More than four weeks later, the company disclosed the mistake.

Some context: A year ago, Twitter began hiring for a new "Trust & Safety" group in earnest. 

In October 2018, the new category showed up on Twitter's careers site with 10 positions. By early 2019, the company was hiring for as many as 24 positions for the group. By May 2019, hiring slowed, only to pick up again last summer. As of the end of September, the company lists 16 positions for the group.

Posted Date

Title

Location Text

2019/09/24

Manager, Site Policy, T&S

Singapore

2019/09/17

Specialist, Ads Policy

San Francisco, CA

2019/08/20

Legal Policy Copyright Agent (Dublin)

Dublin

2019/08/16

Legal Policy Operations Agent

Dublin

2019/08/11

Legal Policy Operations Agent

Dublin

2019/08/06

Legal Policy Operations Agent

Dublin

2019/08/05

Legal Policy Agent, Copyright

San Francisco, CA

2019/07/25

Safety Policy Operations Specialist with German

Dublin

2019/07/14

Safety Policy Domain Specialist - Trust & Safety

Dublin

2019/07/08

Identity Policy Domain Specialist - Trust & Safety

San Francisco, CA

2019/05/28

Manager, Legal Policy - Trust & Safety

San Francisco, CA

2019/05/28

Sr. Site Integrity Policy Specialist (MENA)

San Francisco, CA

2019/05/23

API Policy Domain Specialist

San Francisco, CA

2019/05/23

Site Integrity Policy Specialist - LATAM

San Francisco, CA

2019/05/10

Director, Product Trust, T&S

San Francisco, CA

2019/05/07

Product Trust Partner, Trust & Safety

San Francisco, CA

One then has to ask: did this new group of professionals know? If so, can users trust them? And if not, how are users to trust the safety of their information on the platform if those who handle trust & safety for the platform aren't aware of how data is protected?

The admission by Twitter, titled "Personal information and ads on Twitter" was posted to its Help Center. The admission implies that the error was a mistake and was addressed on September 17. In short, it states that users' phone numbers were used to allow advertisers' marketing lists match with Twitter users, clearly not a thing that users who chose to use their phone numbers for additional account security intended when they signed up in the first place.

On that very same day (September 17), Twitter posted a "Specialist, Ads Policy" position for the group who would, according to the job description, train "internal partners to educate on [ad] policies". It is part of the "Ads Policy" team that helps re-evaluate Twitter's advertising products "in response to incidents". On October 8, Twitter admitted the error to the public.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: 

Join the businesses who have begun to edge out competitors by scouring the web for alternative data.

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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