While Facebook is facing allegations of privacy violations, Twitter is busy with spying allegations. However, in Twitter’s case, fingers are being pointed at former employees who had been spying for the Saudi government.
The Justice Department has today charged both Ahmad Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah for monitoring twitter accounts as part of Saudi’s spying activities. The two had used their access to the platform as a means to further this illegal action.
Abouammo is an American citizen while Alzabarah is a Saudi citizen. According to the indictment charges, Abouammo was accused of spying three accounts. Of these three accounts, one had links to the Saudi leadership.
On the other hand, Alzabarah was charged with accessing personal information of more than 6000 accounts. One of the accounts that stood out was that of Omar Abdulaziz, an ally of the late Jamal Khashoggi and a high profile Saudi dissident.
Abdulaziz, a 28-year-old who lives in exile in Canada is a great critic of the Saudi government which is a no brainer why he is on the spy list.
Apart from the two ex-twitter employees, a third man who also faces charges of spying is Ahmed Almutairi. Almutairi who is also a Saudi citizen was the go-between of Abouammo and Alzabarah.
According to the Washington Post and the indictment, the trio did not work alone but had partnered with Saudi official, Bader Al Asaker, who allegedly groomed them into the spying game.
Asaker who heads the Crown Prince’s charity program is said to have paid a minimum of $300,000 to Abouammo. Apart from that, Abouammo allegedly received a Hublot watch which is worth $20,000. And if you are wondering why the watch costs that much, just so you know it is made from natural rubber and pure gold by a Swiss luxury watchmaker.
On his part, Alzabarah was rewarded with an appointment to become the director of Salman’s private office. Although his salary was not mentioned we can rest assured that it is either equal to or more than what Abouammo had received.
Unfortunately for Abouammo, he is the only one present to face the claims in the US. Almutairi and Alzabarah are in Saudi and may feel lucky that their country has never signed extradition treaties with the US. However, the charges are quite strong and so the duo is not safe too.
This event marks the first time that the US Federal Law has accused the Saudi government for spying within its borders.
These allegations if true will also be the first of its kind in the tech world. Spying is not uncommon within governments, but what the Saudi government is trying to achieve is to silence dissent by corrupting a social network.
In a statement that Twitter issued, the company had a special group of trained and vetted employees to handle sensitive information. As for the users’ privacy, Twitter had placed tools in place to protect them.
Following this event, Twitter will have to go back to the drawing board and check out for loopholes in its security systems.