Two former Twitter employees from Saudi Arabia have been charged with spying for funneling inside information about users of the social-media site to an agent of the Middle Eastern kingdom, federal officials said Wednesday.
Ali Alzabarah and Ahmed Almutairi allegedly used their positions to gather private Twitter data about Saudi critics, giving it to a Saudi official who leads a charity owned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to The Washington Post.
“The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” said US Attorney David L. Anderson.
“We will not allow US companies or US technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of US law.”
The man who ran the charity, Bader Al Asaker, was “working for and at the direction of Mohammed,” the feds charged in their complaint.
He began recruiting Twitter employees in 2014 with the goal of obtaining personal info the Saudi government couldn’t get anywhere else, the feds allege.
Ali Alzabarah, who started working for Twitter in 2013 as a site-reliability engineer, is accused of hacking into at least 6,000 Twitter accounts.
He began working as a Saudi agent in May 2015, the feds said.
Almutairi, meanwhile, allegedly acted as the middleman between Twitter employees and Saudi officials.
Both men are believed to be in Saudi Arabia, the report said.
Wednesday’s announcement comes a day after another former Twitter employee, Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen, was arrested for spying on users to obtain Saudi secrets for the government of the country’s capital, Riyadh, The Washington Post reported.
Abouammo, who was busted in Seattle, is accused of also working with Asaker.
The pair met in 2014 while Abouammo worked as a media-partners manager for Twitter.
A week later, Abouammo was providing Asaker with private Twitter data, according to the report.
For his services, Abouammo was paid $300,000 and given a $20,000 watch, according to the complaint.
A Twitter spokesman told the paper that the social-media company limits access to personal account information “to a limited group of trained and vetted employees to protect the safety of Twitter personnel.”
“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,” the spokesman added. “We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work.”
- My Gay Rights Struggle Connects Me to Black Voters - November 21, 2019
- Nikki Haley lost her password, so she sent confidential info over unclassified system - November 20, 2019
- General Motors Files Racketeering Lawsuit Against Fiat Chrysler - November 20, 2019
- FACT CHECK: Did Ronald Reagan Call Nancy Pelosi ‘Extremely Evil’? - November 20, 2019
- Google Stadia has launched, but there are a lot of kinks - November 20, 2019