A former Twitter executive-turned-whistleblower began testifying before a United States Senate committee on Tuesday, 13 September, about his claims of security lapses at the social media giant.
The deadline for the shareholders of Twitter to vote on Tesla Chief Elon Musk's deal to buy the company is also on Tuesday.
The testimony by Peter 'Mudge' Zatko, a famous hacker who was the head of security at Twitter until he got fired last year, comes ahead of Musk and Twitter's trial next month over whether they should go ahead with the $44 billion buyout deal.
Disclosures from the executive-turned-whistleblower show that at least one Chinese agent is working at the company, Senator Chuck Grassley said during his opening remarks on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
A majority of the shareholders of Twitter have voted to approve of the takeover by Musk, sources told Reuters on Monday, 12 September.
Twitter will announce the results in a special meeting on Tuesday.
Twitter sued Musk for terminating the agreement, while Musk counter-sued Twitter accusing it of concealing data about the number of false and spam accounts.
Users' 'Personal Information Was Put at Risk': Zatko
Zatko that peoples' personal information, including their phone number, email address, IP address, type of device, type of browser, and the location a user connected from, was put at risk at Twitter, reported BBC.
He further added that this data could be used to target an individual in the real world.
He also said that "half the company" were engineers and they all had access to users' personal information, adding that Twitter does not log the activity of employees who access private data, which surprised him, the report added.
National Security Issues
During his questioning at the Senate, the whistleblower said that employees at Twitter had expressed concerns regarding the micro-blogging site carrying advertising from "organisations which may or may not be associated with the Chinese government."
In the view of these concerns, Twitter executives told him that would be "problematic" to lose that revenue stream, he added.
Zatko also said that Twitter's security systems made it difficult to monitor potential espionage.
In a statement released by him last month, Zatko had said that an Indian agent was employed by the company, BBC reported.
"The company did not in fact disclose to users that it was believed by the executive team that the Indian government had succeeded in placing agents on the company payroll," the whistleblower said.
'I'm Risking My Career and Reputation...': Zatko
Talking about his role as a whistleblower, Zatko said that it was not a decision he had taken lightly.
"I'm risking my career and reputation... if something good comes out of it five or ten years down the line, it will be worth it," he added.
Musk May Include Whistleblower’s Claims in His Case, Says Delaware Judge
Last week, a Delaware judge ruled that Musk could include Zatko's whistleblower claims in his case, but denied his request to postpone the trial.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to question Zatko over his claims of Twitter misleading regulators about its compliance with a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission from 2011 over mishandling of user data.
The committee is also expected to interrogate Zatko about his allegation that one or more of Twitter's employees worked on behalf of foreign governments.
The committee chair, Senator Dick Durban, spoke to reporters on Monday and said that Zatko's claims were "a matter of grave personal and privacy concern."
Zatko's complaint filed with regulators in July said that Twitter has made "little meaningful progress on basic security, integrity and privacy systems."
Twitter has claimed that Zatko was fired for "ineffective leadership and poor performance," and that his allegations appeared to have an intent to harm Twitter.
(With inputs from Reuters, BBC.)
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