Senators Question Twitter Over Privacy, Security

Four Democratic lawmakers are questioning Twitter owner Elon Musk and CEO Linda Yaccarino about the company's compliance with Federal Trade Commission consent decrees that imposed privacy and security requirements on the social platform.

“Regardless of his personal wealth, Mr. Musk is not exempt from the law, and neither is the company he purchased,” Senators Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Ed Markey (Massachusetts), Ron Wyden (Oregon) and Mazie K. Hirono (Hawaii) wrote late last week in a letter to Musk and Yaccarino.

The lawmakers voiced concerns about numerous developments at Twitter since Musk took control of the company in October -- including last week's departures of trust and safety head Ella Irwin, and brand safety and ad quality head A.J. Brown.

The senators also noted other changes at Twitter, including employee departures and the launch of the paid Twitter Blue service.



“Reports ... indicated that the launch of the updated Twitter Blue subscription service 'disregarded the company’s normal privacy and security review,'” the letter states, citing to a November article from The Verge.

Warren and the others write that if reports about Musk's actions are accurate, the company may have violated settlements it entered into with the FTC in 2011 and 2022.

“Mr. Musk’s behavior reveals an apparent indifference towards Twitter’s longstanding legal obligations,” the lawmakers write.

“Twitter must meet the requirements it agreed to under the 2011 and 2022 FTC agreements,” the letter continues. “If reports about Mr. Musk’s actions are correct, it appears that the company may not be doing so.”

The 2011 consent decree prohibits Twitter from misleading consumers about privacy. That order stemmed from allegations that security glitches resulted in hackers obtaining access to some users' names, passwords and private messages.

Last year, Twitter agreed to a second consent decree to resolve charges that it violated the earlier order by asking people to provide contact information for security purposes, then using that information for ad targeting. That second settlement, finalized in 2022, also required Twitter to pay $150 million, create and maintain a comprehensive privacy and security program, and conduct a risk assessment before implementing or modifying products.

The lawmakers ask Musk and Yaccarino to answer a series of questions regarding privacy and security practices, including whether the company's ability to maintain a privacy and security program has been affected by staff departures, and whether it conducted assessments before launching or revising products since last October.

The senators are requesting answers by June 18.

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