What seems like a century ago, it was only 5 months to the day that Elon Musk offered to buy Twitter, Inc. for $43 billion. Since then, Twitter shares and ultimately the underlying stock have been on a rollercoaster ride, with price swings of nearly 60% and high volatility along the way.
Much of the company’s value has changed due to Twitter’s security and bot policies, which first came to light when Musk abruptly ended his bid to buy the company. in July. His reasoning was quite simple: Twitter did not have adequate policies in place to control and monitor its own platform, resulting in an inflated number of fake accounts or “bots” in their total user counts and their daily active user figures.
For a social media platform, the total number of accounts and daily active users as well as revenue per user are some of the most important statistics when it comes to business valuation. Even a tech legend like Musk can’t transform Twitter and make money if there aren’t enough users on the platform. This clearly justified Musk’s withdrawal from the deal, which sparked a months-long legal battle that may only be just beginning.
This context is key to setting the stage for Twitter’s latest issue, which is also making headlines. The company’s former chief security officer, Peiter Zatko, testified before Congress last week about his whistleblower allegations against the company that Twitter has major security flaws, knows about those flaws and chooses to do nothing about them.
Zatko went so far as to share with Congress that the company “prioritizes profits over safety concerns.” More troubling, these concerns that Zatko speaks of exist both inside and outside the company.
Zatko shared heartbreaking testimony with senators on both sides of the aisle, leaving them speechless when he said, “It’s no exaggeration to say that a company employee [Twitter] could take over the accounts of all the senators in this room.
Zatko went on to say that he has serious concerns that spies from foreign adversaries are being employed within Twitter, and due to the lax security policies the company has adopted, these spies could potentially take over. account control, access endless amounts of data, or maybe even worse, but of course the company wouldn’t know because they don’t even have the proper means to track or report to that topic.
Zatko went on to say that the company “doesn’t know what data it has, where it is, or where it came from, so, unsurprisingly, it can’t protect it.”
Twitter has become the visit many of us have made to Grandma’s house, where nearly a century of “stuff” has accumulated, overflowing cabinets, closets and rooms between the four walls, and no one really knows what is there or what is not there. . The only difference? Unlike Grandma’s House “Tricks,” Twitter “Tricks” have huge security and privacy concerns for personal, corporate, and government data.
And the problem with the “elements” of Twitter is that they are all interconnected, like a complex network of data composed not only of tweets and media, but also of user information, profile data, personal information such as passwords and security questions, financial data, and frankly data that I can’t even understand because even Twitter itself doesn’t know it’s there.
When you have this complex web of data that’s been around for years that hasn’t been properly maintained, cleaned, encrypted, stored, deleted, or managed, it becomes nearly impossible to reorganize it properly and get things straight.
This is a case, according to Zatko’s testimony, where Twitter even lacks the basics of housekeeping and security. Most companies a fraction of the size of Twitter have stricter data retention and security policies, and for that to exist in a company of the size and reach of Twitter, which is also publicly traded , it’s mind-boggling.
In light of the Musk deal that went south and now Zatko’s testimony, many are calling on Congress to act. Twitter has reached a $150 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it misrepresented how it used information in targeted ads. That $150 million hasn’t seemed to deter the company from cleaning up, so what will?
While $150 million seems like a massive penalty, for a company with a market cap of $30 billion, that penalty isn’t much different from the average American who goes out and spends $300 at a steakhouse for a good birthday dinner. Twitter must be deeply shaken. It has reached a point that has been evidenced time and time again by events far beyond those mentioned in this column that the business does not have the capacity to be a town square with the reach and the user base it has accumulated over the years.
While I’m a corporate advocate and almost always against greater government surveillance, Twitter has been the bedrock of every big tech company and shown that without the proper laws and regulations in place, Big Tech can run amok and cause a security and data at scale. concerns for every user and frankly every citizen of this country.
It’s time for our politicians to wake up and act against these data and security atrocities. Let’s do something before this data falls into the wrong hands and it’s too late, if it’s not already too late.
Brendan Egan is a cybersecurity expert and best-selling author. He is the founder and CEO of Simple SEO Group and serves on the board of directors of ERI, the world’s largest cybersecurity and material destruction company, among other technology and security roles. He wrote his column for The Dallas Morning News
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