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Twitter Whistleblower Peiter Zatko Testifies Before Congress

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Twitter Whistleblower Peiter Zatko Testifies Before Congress


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Photo: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP

Twitter is facing a day of reckoning at a hearing on Capitol Hill today, and someone from the company won’t even be there to offer its side of the story.

Twitter whistleblower and former head of security Peiter Zatko, who was fired in January, is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning about the numerous explosive allegations he made against the social media platform that came to light in mid-August. The Senate Judiciary Committee invited Twitter to attend the hearing, but was told that it would not attend because of its pending litigation with billionaire Elon Musk, who is trying to get out of buying the company.

Gizmodo reached out to Twitter for comment on Zatko’s testimony. Twitter declined to comment.

You can watch the livestream of the hearing beginning at 10 a.m. ET at the link below.

LIVE: Twitter whistleblower Peiter ‘Mudge’ Zatko testifies on security flaws before Senate — 9/13/22

Zatko claims that nearly half of Twitter’s employees have access to sensitive user data and that a significant portion can make changes to the social network itself without the company’s knowledge. Furthermore, the former executive contends that Twitter may have a number of spies from foreign governments on its payroll. He also claims that Twitter is currently violating the terms of an 11-year-old settlement.

When it comes to the social media network’s ongoing fight with billionaire Elon Musk, Zatko maintains that Twitter doesn’t care about finding out how many bots it has on its platform and couldn’t figure it out even if it wanted to.

Notably, in the first part of his testimony, Zatko said that Twitter would react to problems too late.

“Twitter was a company managed by risk and by crises, rather than one that managed risks and crises,” he said.

On Monday, Sens. Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, sent a letter to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal on Zatko’s allegations. Their message included a series of questions put to Twitter to help understand Twitter’s security practices and assess the whistleblower’s disclosures.

The senators’ questions included asking for details on what training or guidance Twitter employees are given to help them guard and respond against foreign threats at the company; how Twitter protects its live production systems and user data from foreign governments; and what policies Twitter has regarding employee access to user data and Twitter’s live production environment, among others.

“With tens of millions of users in the U.S. and hundreds of millions of users worldwide, your company collects and is responsible for vast troves of sensitive data,” Sens. Durbin and Grassley wrote in their letter. “This data can reveal not only a user’s identity on Twitter, but also their personally identifiable information—and even their geolocation. If accurate, Mr. Zatko’s allegations demonstrate an unacceptable disregard for data security that threatens national security and the privacy of Twitter users.”

Update 9/13/2022, 10:34 p.m. ET: This post has been updated with additional information from the hearing.



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