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Parliament panel grills Twitter officials over data security, privacy

A Parliamentary panel questioned top Twitter officials over a whistle-blower’s revelations on its India operations, and gave them a dressing-down as their replies on issues of data security and privacy were “not satisfactory”, sources said.

The officials from the company, however, refuted the whistle-blower’s allegations, denied there was any data security breach in India, the sources said.

Top Twitter executives, including Senior Director (Public Policy) Samiran Gupta and Director (Public Policy) Shagufta Kamran, deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology chaired by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Friday (August 26).

The panel questioned them about reports on former head of Twitter (security) Peiter Zatko’s allegations that the microblogging site knowingly allowed the Indian government to place its “agents” on the company payroll where they had “direct unsupervised access to the company’s systems and user data”.

Also Read: Parliament panel may grill IRCTC and Twitter officials over data, privacy

The Twitter officials denied any such thing having happened, sources in the panel said. The members also questioned the social media giant’s officials on whether their data security policies are in sync with local policies and with the single global privacy policy.

They asked how the microblogging site handles conflicts in the national privacy policies of different countries. The Twitter executives, however, did not give a satisfactory answer for the same. A member said they also evaded questions about data safety and privacy, after which they were reprimanded by the MPs.

Zatko’s allegations were reported by international media houses. Twitter has stated that it was a “false narrative” and the allegations and “opportunistic” timing are designed to capture attention and inflict harm on the company, its customers and shareholders.

The Tharoor-led panel has been holding meetings with various stakeholders including tech companies, social media firms, ministries and other regulators on the issue of citizen’s data security and privacy.

Also Read: Indian government forced Twitter to hire its ‘agent’: Whistleblower

The parliamentary committee is also working on a comprehensive report on data privacy and security. Besides Tharoor, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, TRS’ MP Ranjith Reddy, BJP’s Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and CPI(M)’s John Brittas also attended the meeting.

(With inputs from agencies)

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