In a recent court filing, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) has alleged that Elon Musk‘s takeover of Twitter, now rebranded as X Corp, created a “chaotic environment” that may have violated a government order that mandated improvements in data security and privacy practices.
The DoJ’s legal filing on Tuesday raises concerns about whether Twitter/X Corp was adhering to an order issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a consumer and competition watchdog.
Questions Arise About Compliance
The DoJ’s filing is rooted in depositions from former Twitter employees, now part of X Corp, which cast doubts on the company’s adherence to the FTC’s 2022 administrative order.
According to the filing, these “revealed a chaotic environment at the company that raised serious questions about whether and how Musk and other leaders were ensuring X Corp’s compliance with the 2022 administrative order.”
Elon Musk’s Approach to Security and Privacy Questioned
Andrew Sayler, Twitter’s former director of security engineering, testified during these depositions, expressing ongoing concerns about Elon Musk’s commitment to the organisation’s security and privacy.
Sayler raised issues about Musk’s requests to grant access to third parties without following the regular vetting process, implying a degree of disregard for security.
Accelerated Launch of Twitter Blue Alongside Reduced Staffing
The DoJ filing provides another example of Musk’s leadership style, stating that he “insisted on launching the new Twitter Blue user verification service on an accelerated basis, despite staffing limitations.” Despite staffing constraints, Musk pushed for an immediate launch, which resulted in employees “struggling to keep the service up.”
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History of Privacy Violations and Settlements
Prior to Musk’s acquisition of Twitter (now X Corp), the platform’s parent company, Twitter Inc., settled charges related to misleading consumers about data privacy and security. In this settlement, they agreed to pay a $150 million fine and update a 2011 order imposed by the FTC.
The FTC’s oversight of X Corp continued even after Musk’s takeover, with a particular focus on his mass layoffs at the company. The FTC aimed to obtain Musk’s internal communications as part of their ongoing monitoring of the social media company’s privacy and cybersecurity practices.
The DoJ’s filing also disputes X Corp’s argument that Musk should not be required to testify regarding compliance with the order. They argue that Musk possesses “unique, first-hand” knowledge of the company’s data practices.
Employee Departures and Leadership Problems
The filing highlights that approximately half of X Corp’s employees were terminated or resigned within weeks of Musk’s acquisition, including key executives responsible for privacy, data security, and compliance. Musk’s leadership saw problems such as the botched relaunch of the Twitter Blue subscription service and reports of site outages.
In conclusion, the DoJ’s filing shows the need for an in-depth examination of X Corp’s compliance with the FTC’s order in the wake of Elon Musk’s leadership, citing concerns about data security and privacy practices in the tumultuous environment that followed the acquisition.