Twitter challenges whistleblower allegations of poor security and endangering people’s data

Twitter officials on Wednesday disputed a whistleblower’s allegations that the social media company violated rules and laws, endangering users’ personal data.

Twitter executive Jay Sullivan, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, discredited the allegations of Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, formerly the company’s top security official.

“The company disagrees with much of the allegations, now it’s connected to an ongoing lawsuit,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Mr. Zatko told lawmakers this week that Twitter leadership has misled the public, federal agencies, and its own board.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, Georgia Democrat, pressed Mr. Sullivan to answer whether his company misled the Federal Trade Commission in particular, and the Twitter executive responded that the company disputes Mr. Zatko’s allegations.    

Mr. Zatko also told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that Twitter ignored a warning about insider threats, and he learned that the company was penetrated by foreign spies from India and China working for the platform.

He said when he told a Twitter executive about a foreign agent at the company, the executive responded, “Well, since we already have one, what does it matter if we have more? Let’s keep growing the office.”

Twitter fired Mr. Zatko earlier this year for alleged poor job performance. Mr. Zatko reportedly accepted a nondisclosure agreement that prevented him from speaking publicly but allowed him to talk to Congress and make complaints to federal agencies.  

Twitter has insisted its hiring process is independent of foreign influence and that access to data is managed through systems with controls and background checks.

“Mr. Zatko’s allegations are riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.

China and India are not the only countries looking to gain a foothold inside Twitter, however. In August, a federal jury found former Twitter employee Ahmad Abouammo guilty of spying for Saudi Arabia.

Sens. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, wrote to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal this week requesting information to better assess Mr. Zatko’s claims of wrongdoing.

Other senators are pushing for answers from Twitter too.

Mr. Ossoff told Mr. Sullivan on Wednesday that he should answer forthcoming written questions in a more straightforward fashion than during his testimony at Wednesday’s hearing.

“You’re here before the U.S. Senate, serious allegations were made yesterday by one of your former employees, and I’m open-minded, I’m here pursuing the facts,” Mr. Ossoff said. “Certainly in your responses for the record, it’s going to help you to be clear, definitive, and precise responding to yes or no questions.”





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