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Twitter whistleblower testifies before Congress

Yahoo Finance's Alexis Keenan breaks down what we know so far about the former Twitter head of security's testimony before Congress.

Video Transcript

- Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Former Twitter executive Peiter Zatko there in live images testifying before the House Judiciary Committee today concerning his whistleblower complaint. Zatko alleges that social media giant has major security issues and the company's executives are aware. This all happening in the backdrop of Elon Musk's ongoing legal battle with Twitter. Let's bring in Yahoo Finance's Alexis Keenan, who's tracking the very latest here. And Alexis, all of this of course happening as we see this back and forth between Twitter and Elon Musk on the particular deal. What kind of impact is this hearing likely to have on that?

ALEXIS KEENAN: So that's to be determined. But Akiko, this is not good for Twitter. Certainly could have implications on Musk's deal. But let's just focus on Twitter for the minute and look at what Zatko has said in his opening remarks. And I'll tell you a little bit about that after you listen to how he opened his statements in this hearing.

PEITER ZATKO: To put it bluntly, Twitter leadership ignored its engineers because key parts of leadership lacked the competency to understand the scope of the problem. But more importantly, their executive incentives led them to prioritize profits over security. They don't know what data they have, where it lives, or where it came from. And so, unsurprisingly, they can't protect it.

ALEXIS KEENAN: So that was just the beginning. And there have been a number of revelations so far, all bad looks for Twitter. Look, the company says it is in compliance with its FTC obligations. But here's some more detail about Zatko's testimony. First he says that Twitter's security practices are more than a decade behind where they should be to keep up with the current environment and security threats. He says that the company's executives are looking the other way and prioritizing profits over security.

He also says that Twitter's engineers, that they're able to log in and that Twitter cannot necessarily track what they do once they are inside tapping into users' private data. Also said that the company is unable to delete some of its data and that it's collecting just vast troves of user information. And some of the senators have asked about, well, is that more than users probably think that they're giving up to Twitter?

So here's just a list of some of those things. User phone numbers, their current IP address, other IP addresses that the user has used in the past, their current email, how long they've been using that email, where Twitter thinks that user actually lives on the globe, where they're connecting from, what kind of device they're using, what kind of web browser they're using. It goes on and on with a lot of detail. And some of these senators saying, should there be some kind of disclosure to users?

Also talking about the testing of the security software. Zatko says that Twitter, unlike other companies that he's familiar with, big tech companies he says, that they're testing their security in real time in an environment that's just ongoing instead of testing beforehand and laying out an environment where things can be played out, where security risks be played out before they become a problem.

Also, he says that Twitter lacks control over foreign bad actors, that the company has tried to deal with access that foreign actors have had from within the company, working for the company, actual employees of Twitter. And he also was addressing some questions about access from China government, saying that when a Chinese company, for example, puts an ad on Twitter that then once a user clicks on that they're taken presumably to a website that is controlled by the Chinese government. He said he was concerned about that at the time that he was with Twitter.

Of course, he's now been fired from the company. Twitter says that was because lack of leadership, bad performance. But look, he's gone through a laundry list of things that raised a lot of questions about the security on the platform. We will reach out and are reaching out to Twitter for a response to this. Also, Senator Blumenthal calling for some heads to roll at Twitter, saying that the leadership should be restructured, shifted, and changed. Akiko.

- OK. And that hearing ongoing. We will continue to follow it. Thanks so much for that, Alexis.