Twitter refutes former security head’s claim that India forced it to hire GoI agent for sensitive data access

A file photo of social media apps on mobile phone.

Twitter has refuted the claim of its former security head Peiter Zatko that India forced the micro-blogging platform to hire a Government of India agent and allow him access to users’ sensitive data.

Zatko’s whistleblower disclosure in an 84-page page, submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was obtained by CNN and The Washington Post on Tuesday.

In a statement to Spectrum News, the Twitter spokesperson said that Zatko was an unhappy former employee who has been making false claims.

“Zatko was dismissed from his executive position as a senior executive at Twitter in January 2022 due to poor leadership and ineffective performance,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

“What we’ve seen thus far is a misleading narrative concerning Twitter as well as our privacy and security practices that are rife with inconsistencies, errors and is lacking important details,” the Company spokesperson added.

Zatko also claimed that the Indian government had forced Twitter to employ local full-time employees who “could be used to gain leverage”.

“The danger of damage to Twitter employees was enough to make Twitter to seriously think about the possibility of complying with foreign government demands that Twitter would otherwise strongly reject,” he claimed.

Peiter Zatko, in a section titled ‘Penetration by Foreign Intelligence & Threats to Democracy’, claimed that the “Indian government forced Twitter to hire specific individual(s) who were government agents, who (because of Twitter’s basica architectural flaws) would have access to vast amounts of Twitter sensitive data.”

“By knowingly permitting an Indian government agent direct unsupervised access to the company’s systems and user data, Twitter executives violated the company’s commitments to its users”.

In its report, the Washington Post quotes a “person familiar with the matter” as agreeing with Zakto’s allegation and that the hired employee was “probably an agent”.

In another section titled ‘Squeezing Local Staff’, the former Twitter security chief alleges that the Indian government sought “with varying success” to force Twitter to hire local full-time employees that “could be used as leverage”.

“The threat of harm to Twitter employees was sufficient to cause Twitter to seriously consider complying with foreign government requests that Twitter would otherwise fundamentally oppose,” the complaint notes.


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