A former head of security at micro-blogging site Twitter has made some astonishing revelations about security, privacy, and data protection among other concerns at the company, that were made public yesterday. The whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko also alleged that the Indian government “forced” Twitter to hire a “government agent” on the payroll, with access to user data at a time of growing concerns about government regulation on social media platforms in the country.
“The company did not in fact disclose to users that it was believed by the executive team that the Indian government had succeeded in placing agents on the company payroll,” Peiter ‘Mudge’ Zatko, former head of safety at Twitter, said in his complaint filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The allegations come at a time when the company is involved in a legal battle with the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) over its content blocking orders. He also added that Russia and Nigeria also “sought, with varying success, to force Twitter to hire local FTEs (full-time employees) that could be used as leverage”.
Twitter on data security and bots
In its complaint, Zatko has said that the social media firm had misled or intended to mislead regional oversight bodies over its compliance with local laws. According to a copy of the complaint obtained by The Washington Post, employees working at Twitter were working on wide-ranging and poorly tracked internal access to core company software, which also led to high-profile hacking of accounts like those of Elon Musk and former US President Barack Obama and Donal Trump. He also stated that the social media platform Twitter cannot properly protect its 238 million daily users including government agencies, heads of state, and other influential public figures.
In the complaint, Zatko also claimed that Chief executive Parag Agrawal lied that the company was “strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can,” when he tweeted about the same back in May. In fact, as per the complaint, Twitter prioritized user growth over reducing spam and executives stood to win individual bonuses of as much as $10 million tied to increases in daily users.
The Washington Post report said that supporting information for Zatko’s claims has been sent to the National Security Division of the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The shocking revelations came amid a legal battle between the social media platform and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the US over his decision to pull out of his $44-billion bid to buy Twitter.