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Twitter whistleblower revealed that employees were concerned that Chinese agents could collect user data According to Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk’s Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed over the printed Twitter logos in this illustration taken April 28, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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By Sheila Dang and David Shepardson

(Reuters) – FBI announced Twitter Inc US Senator Chuck Grassley said during a Senate hearing on Tuesday, where a whistleblower testified, raised new concerns about foreign interference in the influential social media platform. enjoy.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a prominent hacker who served as Twitter’s head of security until his dismissal in January, said some Twitter employees were concerned that the Chinese government would be able to collect corporate user data.

Twitter has previously been criticized for lax security, most notably in 2020 when teen hackers took control of dozens of high-profile accounts, including the former President’s verified profile. America Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, Zatko’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed Twitter’s security problems could be much more serious, alleging the company was briefed for the first time about Chinese government agents. working at a social media company.

In his testimony, Zatko referenced a Reuters story on Tuesday that detailed internal conflicts between several teams that wanted to maximize ad revenue opportunities from Chinese advertisers and those who wanted to maximize their ad revenue opportunities. Others are concerned about doing business inside China amid rising geopolitical tensions.

“This is a big conundrum internally,” said Zatko, adding that the company doesn’t want to turn its back on China, the fastest-growing overseas market for ad revenue.

“In short, if we were ready, it would be a problem if we lost that source of revenue,” he said.

Zatko said Tuesday that a week before he was fired from Twitter, he learned the FBI told the company that an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS, the country’s main spy agency , is being employed at Twitter.

It remains unclear whether the alleged Chinese agent still works at the company.

A Twitter spokesperson said the hearing “only confirmed that Mr. Zatko’s allegations were contradictory and inaccurate.”

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

Zatko said Tuesday he recalled a conversation with another Twitter executive about concerns that a foreign agent was inside the company. The CEO replied “Well, since we already have one, what if we have more?”

When asked if he believes something good will come out of the hearing, Zatko said “I hope so.”

“I’m basically risking my career and my reputation. And if something good happens five or 10 years later, it’ll be worth it.”

Zatko’s two-hour testimony ended at noon on Tuesday.

LITIGATION AGAINST MUSK

Grassley noted that Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal declined to appear at the hearing for fear it could jeopardize the company’s lawsuit against Elon Musk, who is also Tesla’s CEO. NASDAQ 🙂 Inc. Twitter and Musk will go to court next month over whether the billionaire’s $44 billion takeover will be completed.

The senator said in his opening remarks that many of the whistleblower’s allegations are directly related to Agrawal, and if those claims are true, “I don’t know how Mr. yourself at Twitter in the future.”

Twitter shareholders have approved Musk’s acquisition of the company, Twitter said Tuesday after a virtual special meeting of shareholders.

The San Francisco-based company sued Musk for terminating the deal, while the Tesla executive objected, accusing Twitter of misrepresenting the number of spam and false accounts on its service.

A Delaware judge ruled last week that Musk could include whistleblower Zatko’s claims in his case against Twitter, but dismissed his request to delay the trial.

The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Zatko over his claims that Twitter misled regulators about compliance with a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission over improper handling of user data. .

Since then, Twitter has made “meaningful small progress toward fundamental security, integrity, and privacy systems,” Zatko’s complaint filed with regulators in July said. know.

Twitter said Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance,” and his accusations appear to be aimed at harming Twitter.

The Zatko whistleblower complaint appears to contain more than two pages of links to supporting documents, such as emails between Zatko and CEO Agrawal, and Twitter reviews of misinformation and misinformation. . The number of documents is limited compared to those provided by Facebook (NASDAQ:) whistleblower Frances Haugen, who released thousands of pages of internal documents.

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