Prosecutors in the United States are saying that two ex-Twitter employees were hired by the Saudi regime in order to access personal account information about critics of the Saudi government.
According to the complaint filed, the accounts compromised included those of journalists – one with more than a million followers and popular critics of Saudi Arabia’s regime. One of the two ‘spies’ is said to have accessed data belonging to 6000 Twitter users and because of his former role at Twitter he would have had access to the following info:
- IP address of targeted users;
- email addresses;
- phone numbers and;
- a log of all their actions on the platform at any given time
The spies were reportedly rewarded with Hublot designer watches and “tens of thousands of dollars in secret bank accounts”. The pair now stands accused of acting as agents of Saudi Arabia without registering the US government.
A third man who acted as the go-between for the two spies has also been charged with falsifying documents and making false statements to the FBI and has been remanded into custody until a hearing.
Incidents like this bring up privacy concerns for users of these platforms who might end up in actual danger. Twitter did release a statement but it was the standard “we protect our users” mumbo-jumbo:
We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work. We’re committed to protecting those who use our service to advocate for equality, individual freedoms, and human rightsTwitter