Sep 12, 2023 - Technology

DOJ: Musk "may have jeopardized data privacy and security" at X

Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre on June 16, 2023 in Paris, France.

X owner Elon Musk during a June event in Paris, France. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Elon Musk may have violated a 2022 Federal Trade Commission order on privacy and security practices at Twitter, now known as X, the Department of Justice said in a new court filing on behalf of the FTC.

Driving the news: The filing asking a judge to deny an X Corp. request to terminate a privacy settlement with the FTC and give Musk immunity from testifying on the company alleges he "exercised granular control of X Corp., at times directing employees in a manner that may have jeopardized data privacy and security."

  • It argues Musk has "first-hand knowledge about the current state and direction of the company's data practices and efforts to comply with the 2022 Administrative Order" and that X Corp.'s "meritless" motion should be denied.

Context: Monday's filing marks the latest attempt by the U.S. government to hold X to account for the privacy agreement it previously signed.

  • Twitter paid a $150 million fine last year before the Musk-led takeover for violating the 2011 consent decree.
  • Multiple people from the security and privacy teams left after the takeover of the company in October, citing concerns about being asked to do things that would violate the privacy agreement. In March, Twitter tried to urge a court to end the consent decree.

What they're saying: The filing says new information from depositions in the FTC's investigation on the matter has "revealed a chaotic environment at the company that raised serious questions about whether and how Musk and other leaders were ensuring X Corp.'s compliance" with the administrative order.

  • Lea Kissner, Twitter's former chief information security officer, testified that decisions by Musk and others on mass layoffs and other "cost-cutting" measures "impaired X Corp.'s ability to 'put technical restrictions and controls in place . . . around the company's use of contact data to make sure that it was being used . . . for the purpose that the particular contact data was collected.'"
  • Representatives for X did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Read the DOJ filing in full, via DocumentCloud:

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