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Twitter Whistleblower Testifies Before Congress

    Twitter Whistleblower Testifies Before Congress
    Last updated: 2 months ago
    Image credit: Reuters

    Facts

    • Former Twitter Security Chief Peiter "Mudge" Zatko — whose federal whistleblower complaint about the company was publicized last month — testified before the US Senate judiciary committee on Tues. as part of its investigation into alleged "egregious deficiencies" related to security. [1]
    • According to Zatko, the week before he was fired in Jan., he learned the FBI had cautioned Twitter that an agent of China's Ministry of State Security — the country's main espionage agency —was on its payroll. He also claimed that some Twitter employees were worried about the potential for the Chinese govt. to gain access to user data. [2]
    • Zatko further alleged that after informing an executive at the company of the potential threat of Chinese agents, he was told "What does it matter if we have more [foreign agents]?" [3]
    • Zatko also revealed the type of user data Twitter has access to, including phone numbers, current and past IP addresses, current and past emails, their potential location, and the device they use. He said, "If they wanted to root around in the data and find it, they could, and some have." [4]
    • In another risk to users' safety and privacy, Zatko claimed that, while he never actually saw any employees do it, it was possible for Twitter engineers to tweet from users' accounts, including those of lawmakers. [1]
    • Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, citing the company's ongoing legal battle with Elon Musk, declined to testify alongside Zatko. [4]
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    Spin

    Narrative A

    Not only does Zatko's testimony reveal how nefarious Twitter truly is, but it also alludes to an endemic problem within the entire tech industry. Twitter put profits over the privacy of its users, and very likely put the US's national security at risk. Twitter, along with many other social media platforms, is due for a complete overhaul.

    Narrative B

    Whatever Zatko's allegations, he's not the security chief any longer and is speaking on issues that he either has no updated knowledge of or were beyond the scope of his insight. Twitter users are protected by employee background checks, access controls, and monitoring systems, all of which Zatko refused to mention. While his claims should certainly be investigated, they should also be taken with a grain of salt.

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