A parliamentary panel on Friday questioned social media giant Twitter on a range of issues including privacy of user data, possibility of breaches and allegations of irregularities levelled by a former employee named Zatko.
The tech company’s team of officials is believed to have told the Standing Committee for Information and Technology led by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor that it follows strict data safety norms and that most of its employees do not have access to user data. There is some access to user data at the headquarters but purely for technical purposes, the company is learnt to have told the panel.
To questions about Zatko’s allegations that the Indian government had forced Twitter to appoint one of its agents in the company, the tech giant clarified that the Indian government had made no such demand.
Sources present in the committee told ANI that members wanted to find out from the Twitter team if there was any leakage of data. The Twitter team present is learnt to have told the members that there has been no data leak by the social media giant.
Members further asked the Twitter team if data of the users was available to anyone in particular or to some of them. The Twitter informed that no employee in India had access to user data. There is some access to data of the users in the headquarters and it is purely for technical purposes, company functionaries are learnt to have told the panel.
Members asked Twitter if they have any mechanism to control any breach of data to which Twitter representatives replied that there was “no” breach of data.
According to sources, questions were asked if there were instances where users had confidentially contacted Twitter’s Data Protection Officer. Panel members also sought details on how many employees were working for Twitter in India and how many were specifically in the IT section and in the security team for managing data?
To some of these the Twitter functionaries could not come up “satisfactory” replies, said the source quoted above. To some of the questions, Twitter will now reply in writing. After a discussion of over 50 minutes and “inability” to give concrete information, the panel has asked for the written replies to be sent to it within a week, said the source.
Officials from Twitter who were present before the committee included Shagufta Kamran, Twitter’s, Director, Public Policy & Government, along with other functionaries.
Members of the panel also asked pointed questions to the microblogging site about alleged data leakage by their platform. Members sought comments on the recent developments reported in the media about the revelations made by whistleblower Zatko.
During his time at the company, Zatko claimed he came across a number of vulnerabilities “waiting to be discovered”. According to media reports, he alleged that he discovered that half of the company’s 500,000 data center servers run on outdated software that does not support basic security features, such as encryption for stored data, or no longer received regular security updates from their vendors.
According to media reports, Zatko had also alleged that the Indian government “forced Twitter to hire one of its agents”. Sources say that in the reply Twitter said that they had also read the media reports but did not have any concrete details to share on it. They also said that the Government of India never approached them for appointing any agent on their rolls.
The (whose complaint?? or is it Zatko’s allegation) complaint alleges Twitter does not reliably delete users’ data — including direct messages — after they cancel their accounts, in some cases because the company has lost track of the information, and that it has misled regulators about whether it deletes the data as it is required to do.
After a discussion of over 50 minutes and a failure to give concrete information, the panel has asked for the written replies to be sent to it within a week’s time.
The meeting was held in the presence of chairman Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, CPIM MP John Brittas, BJP MP and former information and broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore among others.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)