Former top Twitter security official who was accused the company of misrepresenting its privacy practicess, told lawmakers at a hearing Tuesday that the site had put user data at risk and exposed its inner workings to possible foreign actors, increasing added woes of social media services.
Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s top security official before he was fired in January, said the company was informed during his tenure that “there was at least one agent” of the Chinese intelligence agency. “on the payroll of Twitter”. He added that Twitter executives had “chosen to mislead the board, shareholders, legislators, and the public” about its security flaws instead of fixing them.
Last month, a denunciation complaint that Mr. Zatko filed with federal regulators was made public. In it, he accused the company of failing to watch out for attacks and spam and lying about its efforts.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which convened Tuesday’s hearing, expressed concern about Mr. Zatko’s allegations. “Twitter has a responsibility to make sure that data is protected and doesn’t fall into the hands of foreign powers,” said Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the committee.
Mr. Zatko’s testimony added to the turmoil that engulfed Twitter. The social media service has been embroiled in a fight for survival with Tesla founder Elon Musk, who agreed buy Twitter for $44 billion in April before trying back to deal. The company has confirmed the sale is continuing and has sued Mr. Musk, with a hearing on the case set for next month. Later Tuesday, Twitter shareholders are expected to vote to approve the deal.
Mr. Zatko’s accusations have become entangled in a battle between Mr. Musk and Twitter over the fate of the company. Mr. Musk’s attorneys seized on Mr. Zatko’s statements to support their argument that Twitter misled the billionaire about the number of spam accounts on the service.
Mr. Musk has stated that he may walk away from the Twitter acquisition because the company has lowered the number of fraudulent accounts on the service. Mr. Zatko said in his complaint that Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief executive, misled Mr. Musk after the billionaire disclosed his concerns.
At the hearing, Mr. Grassley said Mr. Agrawal had “rejected this committee’s invitation by stating that it would jeopardize Twitter’s ongoing litigation against Mr. Musk”.
“Many of the allegations are directly related to Mr Agrawal and he should be here to address them,” Mr. Grassley added.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Kate Conger contribution report.