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Intro

X, formerly known as Twitter, has been one of the Internet’s largest social media platforms and the go-to platform for real-time updates and conversations on a global scale since its foundation in 2006. Favored by celebrities and official government sources alike, a substantial amount of news first breaks on X. 

Because of this spirited engagement, there is a lot of value to be found in the information contained inside X, but none more so than who uses it.

Through the years, X has collected information on its billions of users—their connections, their identifying credentials, their preferences, their location, and their spending habits. Demographic information is the big data loved by corporations and advertisers and the reason behind X being worth tens of billions.

But because this is such valuable information, X is no stranger to data breaches. Like all social media platforms, X is obliged by law to keep your data safe and not used in a way that could harm you. They should not be sharing your private data with third parties without permission.

Key Takeaways:

  • X has a responsibility to keep your data safe and not use it in ways that will harm you or reveal it to other parties without one’s consent.
  • The government can compel X to pay out punitive fees.
  • Class Action Lawsuits allow a large number of users to bring large corporations to court without having to shoulder the burden of fighting their legal empire.
  • A recent large data breach affected 200 million users.
  • Whether you were affected or are just exploring options, you can check your eligibility for compensation.

X Data Breaches Explained

What Happened?

X has experienced many large data breaches in recent years, with the private information of millions of users being exposed to criminals and malicious actors. Among the most significant of these in recent history are:

Timeline

  • 2023 (January) – The database of over 200 million users published in full. Hackers stole the email addresses of more than 200 million users and posted them on an online hacking forum. This could lead to targeted hacking, phishing, and doxxing. The breach included the phone numbers and emails of many celebrities and politicians. Originally, the hacker “Ryushi” demanded $200,000 holding the data for ransom.
  • 2022 (November)Data scrape for 5.4 million users made public. The API Twitter hack data gathered in late 2021, initially offered for sale, was posted in a hacker forum. This data includes the email addresses and phone numbers of 5.4 million users, which could be used for phishing and identity theft attacks.
  • 2022 (August) – Twitter employee charged with spying for Saudi Arabia. Ahman Abuammo used his position at X, then called Twitter, to convey information about Saudi dissidents to Bader al-Asaker, an aide to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • 2022 (July) – API exploit: In 2021, Twitter updated its application programming interface in a way that exposed a vulnerability. This lasted from June 2021 to January 2022 before being patched. A hacker was able to scrape data from over 5.4 million accounts and put it up for sale for $30,000.
  • 2020 (July) – A hacker was able to obtain access to high-profile accounts, including those of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Kanye West. They then started to post scam messages involving Bitcoin, with the famous account holder claiming to be ‘giving back to the community’ and doubling all Bitcoin sent to their address. The hackers were able to gather over $100,000 as a result.
  • 2019 (November) – Hundreds of Twitter accounts are exposed due to an Android development kit allowing developers to access usernames and email addresses. A limited incident that affected both Twitter and Facebook accounts. Google was alerted to the incident.
  • 2019 (October) – Twitter used data in two-factor authentication for ad targeting. Two-factor authentication uses phone numbers and emails and was provided to marketers to determine whether users could be part of their target audience without the user’s consent. Twitter claimed it had mistakenly incorporated personal information into its Tailored Audience and Partner Audiences ad systems.
  • 2018 (December) – Announced security flaw leaked user phone number country codes. Using Twitter’s own support forms for contacting the company, it was possible to find out the country code of users’ phone numbers or if it had been locked by Twitter. This would expose the countries that accounts were based in, which could be sensitive or dangerous information for activists, protesters, whistleblowers, and other users who may be targeted for retaliation. It was reported as a problem by security researchers two years ago in a bug report, but no action was taken.
  • 2018 (May) – A bug left 330 million passwords exposed. Twitter sent out a mass email to all users to change their passwords. While there was no sign of a breach or misuse, the passwords were left unencrypted in an internal log, making them readable to anyone who could access the system.
  • 2013 (February) – Hack compromised 250,000 accounts. Twitter announced that attackers were able to gain access to account information, specifically users’ names and email addresses. Twitter revoked logged-in tokens and forced password resets onto compromised accounts.
  • 2009 (April) – The Twitter administrator account was breached. A hacker managed to guess a Twitter administrator’s password after gaining access to a personal email account and finding plain text passwords in there. Using the adm account, the hacker was able to change at least one Twitter user’s account password. It is unknown what other information was gathered while they had access to the account.
  • 2009 (January) – Hacker hijacked 33 high-profile user accounts. Using a brute-force automatic password-guessing tool, the hacker was able to enter the Twitter admin control panel. Twitter did not yet have security features, such as limiting the number of password attempts or flagging a high number of attempts happening in quick succession. Among the accounts hacked was even President Barack Obama’s. The hacker uses these accounts to tweet and offer $500 worth of free gasoline in exchange for filling out a survey, which itself is another phishing scam to gain more exploitable private data. 

This event and the hack that occurred later in the same year led to the FTC mandate that Twitter establish stronger internal security measures, must not mislead users about how it is protecting their data, and gave the FTC 20 years of oversight over Twitter security measures.

The most recent and most dangerous breach, however, is the API data breach.

Timeline of the API data breach:

  • January 2023: The email addresses of 200 million users were leaked.
  • December 2022: Data on 400 million users (potentially including the 5.4 million earlier) was put for sale.
  • November 2022: Data on 5.4 million users was leaked, likely from the API exploit.
  • June 2021 – January 2022: The API vulnerability was exploited, potentially affecting hundreds of millions of users.

Twitter/X has a history of data breaches enabling scams and cyberattacks. Of these, the 2021 Twitter data leak from an API vulnerability is a danger the platform introduced brought upon itself. 63 gigabytes of user data were then out in the open. It has affected hundreds of millions of users, and Twitter’s response to protecting their breached data has been ineffectual at best and indifferent at worst.

Will there be a compensation?

It’s common for large-scale data breaches to result in compensation for affected individuals. The exact Twitter/X settlement amount may vary based on factors like the user’s location and the extent of the data breach.

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Am I Affected?

If you were affected, you should receive a data breach notification letter within 72 hours of its discovery. But, there have already been cases when these notices don’t get sent out at all, either as part of a cover-up to protect the company’s image or to avoid identifying users who might be entitled to compensation. So in case of a data leak, it’s a smart move to fill out the form and join the claim regardless. 

What To Do?

Whether you believe you were affected or are just exploring your options, you can quickly and easily check your eligibility and compensation amount with our quick data breach checker. In under two minutes, you’ll know how much money you can get and will be able to claim compensation. Give it a try!

Legal Proceedings and Twitter Settlement

Twitter has previously been held to account for misusing users’ information by regulatory agencies. An X privacy leak can also be caused by the social media platform itself. 

  • In 2020, Twitter was fined €450,000 ($493,000) by the Data Protection Commission in Ireland for breaking Europe’s GDPR data privacy rules. A bug in Twitter affected Android users who shared posts, then known as tweets, marked as private under the “protect your posts”—a setting that makes your content available to your followers only—public if you changed the email address associated with the account. This old bug affected accounts between November 3, 2014, and January 14, 2019.
  • In 2022, Twitter agreed to pay a $150 million Civil Penalty and to implement a Comprehensive Compliance Program to resolve alleged data privacy violations. The US DOJ and FTC alleged that: 

Twitter violated the FTC Act and the 2011 order by deceiving users about the extent to which Twitter maintained and protected the security and privacy of users’ nonpublic contact information. Specifically, the complaint alleges that, from May 2013 to September 2019, Twitter told its users that it was collecting their telephone numbers and email addresses for account-security purposes, but failed to disclose that it also would use that information to help companies send targeted advertisements to consumers. The complaint further alleges that Twitter falsely claimed to comply with the European Union-U.S. and Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield Frameworks, which prohibit companies from processing user information in ways that are not compatible with the purposes authorized by the users. 

140 million users were affected.

  • In October 2023, Australia fined X, formerly Twitter, for not answering questions on child abuse content. In February of the same year, Australia’s eSafety office sent a legal memo to Twitter, along with other tech companies like Google, TikTok, Twitch, and Discord, with specific questions to answer about how they would handle content regarding child exploitation.

According to the eSafety commissioner, Twitter/X did not answer many of the questions and left “some sections entirely blank.” Google was issued “a formal warning” for giving “generic responses to specific questions.” However, X received an official fine because “its failure to comply with Australia’s reporting standards was more egregious.

  • Germany’s Federal Office of Justice is conducting fine proceedings against the Twitter International Unlimited Company for inadequately handling user complaints. The press release stated:

According to the NetzDG, the provider of Twitter is obliged to have an effective and transparent procedure for dealing with complaints from users about illegal content. Among other things, it must immediately take note of reported content, check whether it is illegal within the meaning of the NetzDG, and delete or block access to illegal content, observing the statutory period of seven days or 24 hours in the case of obvious illegality. According to the NetzDG, content is considered unlawful if it fulfills one of the criminal code offenses listed in Section 1 Paragraph 3 NetzDG, such as incitement to hatred, insults or threats.

Numerous content was reported to the BfJ that was published on Twitter, which the authority believes is illegal and which, despite user complaints, was not deleted or blocked by the provider within the legally stipulated deadlines. The fine proceedings initiated are based on this.

The Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz), NetzDG, is a German law passed to combat misinformation and hate speech online. Six hundred cases had already been filed against Twitter. Under this law, an entity can be fined up to €50 million per case.

  • Twitter counter-filed a legal action against this rule. The lawsuit challenges Germany’s expanded anti-hate speech regulations that may allow user data to be passed to law enforcement before it is clear any crime has been committed.

“We are concerned that the law provides for a significant encroachment on citizens’ fundamental rights,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “In particular, we are concerned that the obligation to proactively share user data with law enforcement forces private companies into the role of prosecutors by reporting users to law enforcement even when there is no illegal behaviour.”

Facebook and Google also filed similar lawsuits in the summer of 2022.

Social media platforms often choose settlements when faced with disputes or lawsuits. Negotiating settlements allows social media companies to resolve legal challenges without protracted and costly court battles.

Negotiations between the platform and aggrieved parties focus on finding a compromise that addresses the complaints raised. Settlements often involve agreements to modify content, enhance privacy measures, or provide compensation. Platforms do not necessarily have to admit fault, but they do have to modify their security approaches. The terms are then submitted to the court for approval. Once legal procedural requirements are completed, it is also the role of the court to ensure the enforceability of the settlement.

How to Claim Twitter Compensation

If you want to get compensation for the data breach, you need to join a group lawsuit, also known as a class action. When you do this, you’ll work with a financial litigation partner who handles everything for you. That is us! Your task is just to apply and then wait to get money

Remunzo handles all the hard work. We set up the lawsuit and take the corporation to court for you. Corporations don’t want to pay money easily, but Remunzo will fight hard to get your settlement payout. When joining thousands of others in a lawsuit like this, the corporation is more likely to pay and the settlement payment amount per person i.e. how much will you get tends to be higher.

Remunzo will keep you updated about the settlement status. But you need to be patient because it can take months till the settlement payments are done and you get paid

Quickly check your eligibility and compensation amount with our simple data leak checker. In under 2 minutes, you’ll know how much money you can get and will be able to claim compensation. Give it a try!

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Impact on Twitter/X Users

Twitter/X data privacy leaks are common vectors for scams. The 2020 hack in which a hacker was able to compromise even the Twitter accounts of billionaires and megacorporations had already been mentioned. But if an account can be compromised, the same scams could also be applied to more targeted users.

School administrators, banking, police, and government accounts could lead other users to further submit their private data by making them click on a fake link that would ask for their private information in a legitimate-looking registration portal. Financial and personal data could then be harvested and sold. Ransomware attacks could be made.

Fake news is also a strong concern. Journalist accounts, if taken over, could mislead many people, as happened in 2017 when a journalist and an activist/member of parliament’s accounts were hacked to spread false information about events in Venezuela.

The erosion of trust on a Twitter/X-verified handle can have lasting consequences. Previously, verified accounts had to prove they were who they said they were. When Twitter/X Blue’s parody accounts, after having purchased verified check tags, posted as if they were the official Twitter of a company, they quickly impacted stock prices. ‘Verified’ Twitter/X accounts shared fake images of an explosion near the Pentagon, which ended up being shared on global news outlets. 

One of the parody accounts claimed to be associated with Bloomberg News. “Large explosion near the Pentagon complex in Washington DC. – initial report,” the account posted, along with an image purporting to show black smoke rising near a large building. According to CNN:

“In the moments after the image began circulating on Twitter, the US stock market took a noticeable dip. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 80 points between 10:06 a.m. and 10:10 a.m., fully recovering by 10:13 a.m. Similarly, the broader S&P 500 went from up 0.02% at 10:06 a.m. to down 0.15% at 10:09 a.m.. By 10:11 a.m., the index was positive again.

X previously enjoyed a high sense of trust when it came to breaking news from legitimate sources. It is unknown how long this would hold on inertia, whether X will regain its credibility, or if any other social media platform will take over the niche it occupies.

If parody accounts are already a problem with as little as a ‘verified’ tag, compromised accounts could be much more damaging. If breached data can be used as a first step to engineer more access to private or financial information, malicious actors could ruin reputations, run scams, or spread more misinformation. The most dangerous form of hacking is psychological manipulation.  

Twitter/X’s Response and Changes in Data Security

Twitter/X usually and promptly attempts to close cybersecurity vulnerabilities and complies with regulatory demands, as long as these are pointed out. Most of their security failures come from the people side of the platform, not the software. Management software has a high degree of access to user accounts, and to improve security, Twitter/X has implemented these factors:

  1. Improvement of the management process authentication to check that only verified and authorized personnel can have access to the software;
  2. Improvement of the platform’s detection and monitoring capabilities;
  3. Investment in improved tools and training for contractors and employees.

Data breaches from Twitter/X’s side through mishandling or misusing private data can only be corrected through internal policy in compliance with international privacy laws. Twitter/X’s official statement regarding data privacy reads:

Our approach to privacy compliance is broader than simply complying with the terms of the GDPR, the UK GDPR, the CCPA and the array of other data protection laws and regulations that apply to our global business. Rather, we think about how our work can benefit as many of our users as possible and work towards legal compliance in a way that strengthens our comprehensive data security and privacy program, and supports the evolution of our principles and overarching mission as a company.”  

X also has a transparency page reporting legal demands and information requests. 

Finally, X offers bounties for finding vulnerabilities in its software. The 2021 data leak was effectively patched when the API vulnerability was reported. However, there are concerns that Twitter/X’s manpower shortages and style of leadership will impact its ability to respond to cybersecurity threats.

Future Implications and Impact on the Industry

Twitter/X’s data privacy breaches and violations carry a rippling effect. This could sting both the platform’s finances and user base. The erosion of trust may impact its viability as a platform, but regaining trust requires more genuine transparency, objectivity, robust security measures, and putting user privacy first.

Beyond X, the stiffening regulations about data privacy may provoke a broader industry introspection. Can social media platforms evolve beyond monetizing user data? Should stricter regulations and data ownership rights empower users against these vulnerabilities, at the expense of relevant data and advertiser income? The long-term impact of this breach can shape the future of the data privacy landscape and the reliance people have on large centralized social media platforms.

Other Famous Incidences of Privacy Breaches

Twitter/X is not the only one that had its data stolen. Hundreds of other companies have faced or will face data breaches. Therefore, we strongly suggest using our Compensation Calculator. This tool will help you find out how many compensation claims you are eligible for and how much money you might get—and we can help you easily get it.

  • Tiktok (2022): Users began receiving payments between $27.84 and $167.04 following a $92 million class-action data privacy settlement with the social media platform.
  • Snapchat (2022): Snapchat’s parent company is set to pay out $35 million to current and former Illinois residents for allegedly storing their facial recognition data without their consent.
  • Google (2023): U.S. residents who used Google search between Oct. 26, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2013, were the beneficiaries of a class-action lawsuit that alleges Google improperly shared users’ search queries and histories with third-party websites and companies. Google is settling for $23 million without admitting wrongdoing. 
  • Facebook (2023) A similar class-action settlement applies to U.S. residents who used Facebook between May 24, 2007, and Dec. 22, 2022. Meta is settling a $725 million lawsuit.

Conclusion

X, formerly Twitter, has undeniably altered the way we communicate. It broke open geographical barriers, fostered global real-time conversations, and enjoyed a high degree of trust. However, that trust was impacted by data breaches, poor data practices, changes in leadership, and cybersecurity failures.

If you were affected by Twitter/X’s failures, you may be owed compensation in a class action lawsuit.

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Are you missing out on other data breach payouts? Try our compensation calculator and find out now!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to minimize or prevent Data breach impact?

Using virtual payment cards with spending limits and unique email addresses for different services can greatly reduce the risks of data breaches. Disposable virtual cards protect your financial details, while custom email addresses (like “yourname+service@gmail.com”) help identify compromised services. These strategies add security layers, minimizing the impact of breaches on your personal and financial data.

What to do after a data breach?

In case of a data breach, promptly change your passwords on the affected accounts, making them strong and unique. Activate two-factor authentication for added security. Monitor your financial statements and credit reports for any unusual activity. Alert your bank or credit card provider about potential fraud. Be cautious of phishing scams following the breach and consider a credit freeze. Finally, report the incident to the appropriate authorities.

What is a Data breach notice?

A data breach notice is an official alert sent by an organization to individuals whose personal data, including potentially compromised passwords, may have been exposed in a security breach. Such a notice can often follow warnings from services like Apple or Google indicating that “this password appeared in a data leak.” It details the nature of the breach, affected data types, potential risks, and the organization’s remedial actions. The notice advises on protective measures, such as changing passwords and monitoring credit reports to mitigate harm.

Can I sue, and how to join a class action lawsuit?

Yes, you can sue for a data breach. With Remunzo, joining an active class action lawsuit is easy. Check your eligibility on our platform, and if your case is active, you can join the lawsuit. Remunzo handles all legal proceedings and negotiations for a settlement. These processes can take some time, but we keep you updated throughout. Use our Quick Data Leak Checker to see if you qualify to join and claim compensation.

When will I get paid the data breach settlement?

The time it takes to receive a data breach settlement payment varies, often taking several months after a settlement is reached. Factors like case complexity, number of claimants, and legal procedures affect the timeline. Remunzo will keep you informed about the settlement progress, but patience is key as these processes can be lengthy.

Sources

  1. Heiligenstein MX. TikTok Data breaches: Full timeline through 2023 [Internet]. Firewall Times. 2023. Available from: https://firewalltimes.com/tiktok-data-breach-timeline/ 
  2. Winder D. This Zero-Day Twitter hack has already impacted 5.5 million users: report. Forbes [Internet]. 2022 Nov 29; Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2022/11/29/zero-day-twitter-hack-confirmed-impact-could-exceed-20-million-users-report/?sh=4e32c66456c5
  3. Molloy BJT& D. Twitter hack: 130 accounts targeted in attack. BBC News [Internet]. 2020 Jul 17; Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53445090
  4. Twitter Agrees with DOJ and FTC to Pay $150 Million Civil Penalty and to Implement Comprehensive Compliance Program to Resolve Alleged Data Privacy Violations [Internet]. 2022. Available from: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/twitter-agrees-doj-and-ftc-pay-150-million-civil-penalty-and-implement-comprehensive
  5. Picciotto R. Australia fines X, formerly Twitter, for not answering questions on child abuse content. CNBC [Internet]. 2023 Oct 15; Available from: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/10/15/australia-fines-x-formerly-twitter-for-not-answering-questions-on-child-abuse-content-.html#:~:text=Australia’s%20eSafety%20commissioner%20fined%20X,down%20on%20child%20abuse%20content
  6. Suciu P. Cybersecurity experts warn Twitter breach will have lasting ramifications. Forbes [Internet]. 2023 Jan 5; Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/petersuciu/2023/01/05/cybersecurity-experts-warn-twitter-breach-will-have-lasting-ramifications/?sh=6a7a8a3e2032
  7. BBC News. Twitter fined £400,000 for breaking EU data law. BBC News [Internet]. 2020 Dec 15; Available from: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55317207
  8. Winters M. You could be entitled to free cash if you used Google between 2006 and 2013—here’s how to claim it. CNBC [Internet]. 2023 Jun 29; Available from: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/06/29/how-to-claim-cash-from-google-meta-class-action-lawsuits.html

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