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New Delhi: An explosive whistleblower complaint filed by former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko alleges 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.
The complaint – an 84-page filing that was sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and was made public by the Washington Post on Tuesday afternoon – indicates that supporting and corroboratory information for this allegation has been sent by Zatko’s lawyers to the National Security Division of the US Justice Department and the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
In his filing, Zatko, a widely admired hacker known to his colleagues as “Mudge”, paints a picture of Twitter as a chaotic company that is unable to properly protect its 238 million daily users.
In a section titled ‘Penetration by Foreign Intelligence & Threats to Democracy’, says that Zatko became aware of “multiple episodes” in which Twitter had been complicit in threats to democratic governance.
“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,” the complaint notes.
“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.
The Wire has reached out to Twitter India for a statement and will update this story if and when a response is received.