Twitter Staff were Worried that a China Agent might Collect User Data, According to a Whistleblower

Twitter Staff were Worried that a China Agent might Collect User Data, According to a Whistleblower

  • Tech News
  • September 14, 2022
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The FBI informed Twitter that at least one Chinese agent was working for the company, raising concerns about foreign interference.

US Senator Chuck Grassley said the FBI informed Twitter Incat least one Chinese agent was workingorking for the company, during a Senate hearing on Tuesday where a whistleblower testified, raising new concerns about foreign interference in the influential social media platPieterPeiter “Mudge” Zatko, a notorious hacker who served as Twitter’s chief security officer until he was fired in January, said some Company employees are concerned that the Chinese government will be able to collect data on the company’s users.

The company has previously come under fire for lax security, most notably in the year 2020 when teenage hackers seized dozens of high-profile accounts, including the verified profile of former US President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, Zatko’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that security issues on Twitter could be more serious, as she first claimed that the company had informed Chinese government agents working for the social media company.


However, Company shares rose nearly 1% amid a sharp market sell-off. The stock is moving almost exclusively on sentiment over whether billionaire Elon Musk will be forced to finalize his $44 billion deal to buy the company, and Tuesday’s gains suggest investors haven’t seen any new details that could support Musk’s efforts to walk away from the deal.

And while Grassley, a Republican, questioned how Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal would keep his job if the allegations were true, several senators used the testimony to support legislation they introduced to curb Big Tech’s market power, with a few calling for immediate action. . Direct action against Twitter.

Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said the allegations by the Chinese agent will constitute an ongoing Twitter PR nightmare, and investors will be clamoring to learn more.

During his testimony, Zatko referred to a Reuters story on Tuesday that detailed internal clashes between some teams that wanted to maximize ad revenue opportunities from Chinese advertisers and others who were concerned about doing business within China amid heightened geopolitical tensions.

“This was a huge internal puzzle,” Zatko said, adding that the company was reluctant to move away from China as the fastest growing overseas market in terms of advertising revenue.

“In short, if we’re really in bed, it’s going to be hard to miss that revenue stream,” he said.

Zatko said Tuesday that in the week before he was fired from the company, he learned that the FBI had informed the company that an undersecretary of China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS, the country’s main spy agency, was on Twitter’s payroll.

A Twitter spokesperson said the hearing “only confirms that Mr. Zatko’s allegations are riddled with contradictions and inaccuracies”.

The spokesperson added that Twitter’s recruitment process is independent of foreign influence and access to data is managed through background checks and monitoring and detection systems.

Zatko said Tuesday that he recalled a conversation with another company executive about concerns about a foreign agent inside the company. Well, the executive replied, “Since we already have one, what does it matter if we have more?”

Litigation against Musk

Grassley noted that Agrawal refused to appear at the hearing, fearing that it would jeopardize the company’s lawsuit against Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, and that Twitter and Musk will go to trial next month over whether to complete the billionaire’s acquisition deal.

Twitter said Tuesday after a virtual private meeting of shareholders that Twitter shareholders have agreed to Musk’s purchase of the company.

The San Francisco-based company sued Musk to terminate the agreement, while Musk opposed it, accusing Twitter of misrepresenting the number of fake accounts and spamming on its service.

Little of what Zatko said appears to have been particularly helpful to get Musk out of the deal, according to Ann Lipton, a professor at Tulane University School of Law.


Holding the deal excludes legislative changes that Congress might adopt and the FTC’s fines are priced in the works, Zatko said. Lipton said this indicated that the regulatory action against Twitter would not rise to the level of a material event that could invalidate the deal agreement.

Ives said that the lack of evidence to support Zatko’s claims that Twitter does not have adequate spam controls also won’t help Musk’s legal team, which used the issue to try to close the deal.

A Delaware judge ruled last week that Musk may include Zatko’s allegations of wrongdoing in his case against Twitter, but rejected his request to postpone the trial.

A Senate committee questioned Zatko about his allegations that Twitter misled regulators about its compliance with a 2011 settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over improper handling of user data.

Zatko’s complaint to regulators in July said that Twitter has since made “small and significant progress on its core security, integrity and privacy systems.”

Zatko’s whistleblower complaint appears to contain more than two pages of links to supporting documents, such as emails between Zatko and Agrawal and an assessment of disinformation and disinformation on Twitter.

The number of documents was limited compared to those provided by Facebook whistleblower Francis Hogan, who posted thousands of pages of internal material.

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