FTC’s Khan “extremely upset by whistleblowers’ allegations on Twitter, says probe could target CEO

On Tuesday, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan said she was “extremely upset” by a Twitter whistleblower’s allegation that the company misled the FTC as to the extent to which it was complying with a 2011 consent decree made with the agency. .

“There has absolutely been a problem with companies treating FTC orders as suggestions,” Khan said at a hearing of the Senate Judicial Subcommittee. “We have an ongoing program to really strengthen it.”

Twitter Inc. TWTR,
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concluded the consent decree in 2011 after the FTC said hackers took administrative control of Twitter twice in 2009, giving them access to non-public user information and tweets that consumers had designated as private.

In May, the FTC ordered Twitter to pay $ 150 million for breaching that order and misleading data, such as cell phone numbers, to protect account security for targeted advertising.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a respected cybersecurity expert and whistleblower on Twitter, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that the company withheld information from the FTC when conducting statute-barring interviews.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut asked Khan on Tuesday if the agency was investigating Twitter for the deceptions and she replied that the FTC “is looking into it closely.”

Khan also described the 2011 consent order as a “legacy approach” that the agency is moving away from. He said one of the “remedies” used by the FTC to make sure companies comply with consent decrees is to appoint individual company officers or directors on orders and hold them personally responsible for any misconduct.

Blumenthal noted that Zatko said knowledge of Twitter’s deception dated back to CEO Parag Agrawal and asked Khan if she would be willing to name him in any upcoming court order against the company.

“Absolutely,” Khan said. “If we have a basis for naming people because we find they meet the legal standards for it, we won’t hesitate to do so.”

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