Twitter whistleblower reveals employees fear Chinese agent is collecting user data

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Sep 13 (Reuters) – Disclosures from a former Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) An executive-turned-whistleblower shows Twitter was made aware that at least one Chinese agent worked for the social media company, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said in his opening remarks at a Senate hearing on Tuesday with the testimony of the whistleblower.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a notorious hacker who served as Twitter’s security chief until he was fired last year, said during the hearing that some Twitter employees feared the Chinese government could collect enterprise user data.

He referred to a Reuters article on Tuesday that detailed internal clashes between some teams who wanted to maximize advertising revenue opportunities for Chinese advertisers and others who feared doing business in China amid growing geopolitical tensions. Read more

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

“It was a big internal conundrum,” Zatko said, adding that the company was hesitant to turn away from China as the fastest growing overseas market for ad revenue.

“In a nutshell, if we were already in bed, it would be problematic if we lost that source of income,” he said.

The whistleblower disclosures had noted that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had informed Twitter of at least one Chinese agent within the company, Grassley said in his opening statement.

Zatko said on Tuesday that in the week before he was fired from Twitter, he learned that an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS, an agency comparable to the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, was on the payroll of Twitter.

It was not immediately clear if the alleged Chinese agent was still working at the company.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Zatko’s testimony.

In his testimony, Zatko said he recalled a conversation with another Twitter executive about concerns about the presence of a foreign agent at the company. The executive replied “Well, since we already have one, what does it matter if we have more?”

DISPUTE AGAINST MUSK

Grassley noted that Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal declined to appear at the hearing for fear it would jeopardize the company’s litigation against Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O). Twitter and Musk will go on trial next month on whether the $44 billion takeover deal should go ahead.

Later Tuesday, Twitter will also announce the results of a shareholder vote on Musk’s takeover of the company. A majority of shareholders have already approved the deal, sources told Reuters. Read more

The San Francisco-based company sued Musk for terminating the deal, while Tesla’s chief executive fought back, accusing Twitter of misrepresenting the number of fake accounts and spam on its service.

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

The Senate Judiciary Committee is questioning Zatko over his claims that Twitter misled regulators about its compliance with a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission over mishandling of user data.

Since then, Twitter has made “little meaningful progress on core security, integrity and privacy systems,” said Zatko’s complaint filed with regulators in July.

Twitter said Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance,” and that his allegations appeared designed to harm Twitter.

Zatko’s whistleblower complaint appeared to contain more than two pages of links to supporting documents, such as emails between Zatko and CEO Agrawal and an assessment of misinformation and misinformation on Twitter. The number of documents was limited compared to those provided by Facebook (META.O) whistleblower Frances Haugen, who has released thousands of pages of insider material.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Kenneth Li, Lisa Shumaker and Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment