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Two Senate Democrats ask FTC to investigate Twitter whistleblower allegations

Two Senate Democrats sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairwoman on Tuesday to request that the agency investigate allegations from a former top Twitter official that the company has significant security issues that could threaten privacy and U.S. national security. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, sent his letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), also a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent his letter to Khan and Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

The letters come after a complaint from former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko was publicized, revealing that he accused the social media platform of making false claims about its security infrastructure and the company’s leaders of misleading the federal government and its own board about its security issues. 

The complaint, which Zatko filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice and FTC last month, said Twitter’s conduct would violate a settlement it reached with the FTC. 

Zatko reportedly alleged that some of Twitter’s servers were operating on outdated software, many employees have internal access that could jeopardize user accounts and user data was not properly erased after users deleted their accounts. 

Markey said in his letter that the federal government should investigate the charges, hold Twitter accountable for any illegal activity and protect Twitter users’ data. Blumenthal said potential government action against Twitter should include bringing civil penalties and liability against individual Twitter executives if appropriate. 

The senators said in their letters that Twitter has a history of poor security measures, which led the FTC to file a complaint against the company, arguing that it misled its users about the platform’s security features. Twitter and the FTC reached a settlement for the complaint in 2011, but the senators say Twitter is violating that agreement, based on Zatko’s complaint. 

A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement responding to reports of Zatko’s complaint that the company considers security and privacy to be top priorities, and added that the complaint is “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context.” 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is trying to cancel his deal to purchase Twitter over accusations he made that the company has not been forthcoming about how prevalent spam accounts are on the platform.

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