Eyes on Twitter: Whistleblower grabs attention of Irish DPC and US Senate

25 Aug 2022

Image: © wachiwit/Stock.adobe.com

Twitter whistleblower Peiter ‘Mudge’ Zatko will testify before a US Senate hearing on 13 September, while EU data watchdogs are investigating the matter.

The claims of a former Twitter employee of “extreme” security issues at the company have grabbed the attention of both EU watchdogs and the US government.

It has been reported that Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) and French watchdog CNIL are following up on the whistleblower complaints.

Peiter ‘Mudge’ Zatko, who was previously Twitter’s head of security, claims the company’s senior leaders mislead its board and regulators about security vulnerabilities.

The DPC’s deputy commissioner, Graham Doyle, told TechCrunch that the regulator became aware of the issues from media stories and has “engaged with Twitter on the matter”.

Ireland’s data authority held a meeting with the social media platform on Tuesday (23 August) regarding the whistleblower allegations, Politico reports.

The DPC is the lead supervisor for Twitter in the EU under data protection rules as the company has its European headquarters in Dublin. In 2020, the DPC fined Twitter €450,000 for a data breach that was discovered two years prior.

But France’s watchdog also confirmed that it is investigating the allegations raised this week. A CNIL spokesperson told TechCrunch the authority could carry out checks that could lead to an order to comply or a sanction, if the claims are proven to be correct.

US Senate hearing

The whistleblower claims have also caught the attention of the US lawmakers and the Senate wants to hear from Zatko next month.

He will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing on 13 September. This hearing will be public and livestreamed, CNN tech reporter Brian Fung tweeted yesterday.

Members of the committee said they will take further steps “to get to the bottom of these alarming allegations,” according to a statement seen by The Washington Post.

The hearing is set to take place on the same day that Twitter’s shareholders are scheduled to vote on the company’s buyout by Elon Musk.

Zatko’s allegations arrived amid a legal battle between Twitter and Musk. The Tesla boss is attempting to back out of a $44bn takeover deal, claiming he didn’t receive enough information about fake accounts on the platform.

Musk’s legal team have now subpoenaed Zatko, while experts have said that if the former security chief’s assertions are true, it could provide a “smoking gun” for Musk’s case.

Twitter’s CEO responds

In response to Zatko’s allegations, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal sent an email to staff, which was shared on Twitter by CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan.

In the email, Agrawal said Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance”. He added that Twitter is reviewing the claims, but “what we’ve seen so far is a false narrative that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and presented without important context”.

“We will pursue all paths to defend our integrity as a company and set the record straight,” Agrawal said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic