The company has a Chinese agent on the payroll

Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko appears before the US Senate Judiciary Committee today to testify over claims that the social media platform has been dangerously lax in its privacy and data security practices.

When the hearing began, one of the first bombshells discussed was the possibility that Twitter has at least one Chinese agent on its payroll.

Zatko is a formerly famous hacker who served as Twitter’s head of security. But last year he was fired.

Twitter said Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance.” Reuters reported.

Shortly after his release, however, Zatko disclosed vast amounts of information about Twitter practices that could compromise security and private information and data, or even get into the hands of foreign intelligence agencies.


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“His disclosures also indicate that the FBI notified Twitter of at least one Chinese agent at the company,” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said in his opening remarks at the hearing.

Zatkos whistleblower The disclosure was first submitted to authorities in July. The allegations were reported by CNN and the Washington Post in August.

Information about the possibility of a foreign agent being employed by Twitter was one of the most shocking aspects of Zatko’s disclosure.

But at the time Zatko’s claims were first reported, it was merely implied that the US government may have provided Twitter with specific information that at least one of its employees (or more) may have worked for a foreign agency, CNN reported.

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Zatko’s disclosure of this information did not specify which foreign country might be suspected.

But in today’s hearings, more of that information was revealed through Grassley’s comments.

“Through [Zatko’s] Disclosures, we learned that Twitter users’ personal information may have been disclosed to foreign intelligence agencies,” Grassley said, CNN reported. “For example, its disclosures suggest that India was able to place at least two suspected foreign assets on Twitter. His disclosures also indicate that the FBI notified Twitter of at least one Chinese agent at the company.”


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Although congressional committees are now digging through this information from Zatko, Twitter has not commented publicly on the allegations regarding the possible employment of a Chinese agent on Twitter.

However, Twitter has accused Zatko of spreading “fake stories” about the company, CNN reported.

In addition to these claims about the possible involvement of Twitter and foreign intelligence agencies, Zatko also said in the hearing that it was far behind on security standards when it joined Twitter.

Zatko said he noticed that “this hugely influential company falls short of industry safety standards for more than a decade and that it is doing real harm to real people,” CNN reported.

“It’s not far-fetched to say that a Twitter employee could take over the accounts of every senator in this room,” he added.

Democratic Senator Dick durbin from Illinois, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also commented on the seriousness of the Twitter security situation.

“Twitter is [an] an immensely powerful platform that can’t afford gaping security holes,” Durbin said, CNN reported.

In light of this, Grassley added at the hearing that if Zatko’s allegations prove true, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal would have to resign.

“I don’t see how Mr. Agrawal can maintain his position on Twitter” (if Zatko’s claims are indeed true), Grassley said.

Zatko has continued to claim before the Senate committee that he did not make these claims to harm Twitter.

“I did not make my whistleblower disclosures out of spite or to harm Twitter; far from it. I continue to believe in the company’s mission and root its success,” Zatko said senators during the hearing, CNN reported. “But this success can only come when the privacy and security of Twitter users and the public are protected.”

This article originally appeared on The West Journal.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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