After Whistleblower Complaint, Parliamentary Panel Grills Twitter Officials Over Data Security

The officials from the company, however, refuted the whistleblower's allegations and denied there was any data security breach in India.

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New Delhi: A parliamentary panel questioned top Twitter officials over a whistleblower’s revelations on its India operations, and gave them a dressing-down as their replies on issues of data security and privacy were “not satisfactory”, sources said.

The officials from the company, however, refuted the whistleblower’s allegations and denied there was any data security breach in India, the sources told news agency Press Trust of India.

Top Twitter executives, including senior director (public policy) Samiran Gupta and director (public policy) Shagufta Kamran, deposed before the parliamentary standing committee on information and technology chaired by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Friday, August 26.

The panel questioned them about a complaint filed by former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko, who alleged that the Indian government forced the social media company to hire an individual who was a “government agent” and likely had access to sensitive user data as part of their job.

Also read: India Forced Twitter to Hire a ‘Govt Agent’, Claims Former Security Chief in Whistleblower Complaint

The Twitter officials, however, denied any such thing having happened, sources in the panel told PTI.

The members also questioned Twitter’s officials if their data security policies is in sync with local policies and with the single global privacy policy.

They asked how Twitter handles conflicts in national privacy policies of different countries, with the sources saying the executives didn’t give satisfactory replies.

They also evaded questions about data safety and privacy, a member said, following which they were reprimanded by the MPs.

Zatko’s complaint – an 84-page filing that was sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission – was made public by the Washington Post on August 23.

However, Twitter has stated it was a “false narrative” and the allegations and “opportunistic” timing appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on the company, its customers and its shareholders.

Also read: What Could the Future of Indian Data Protection Law Look Like?

The Tharoor-led panel has been holding meetings with various stakeholders including tech companies, social media firms, ministries and other regulators on the issue of citizens’ data security and privacy.

The parliamentary committee is also working on a comprehensive report on data privacy and security.

Besides Tharoor, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Telangana Rashtra Samithi MP Ranjith Reddy, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and CPI(M)’s John Brittas attended the meeting.

(With PTI inputs)