QR.bizNewsTwitter Employees Spied on Users for Saudis: Prosecutors

Twitter Employees Spied on Users for Saudis: Prosecutors

The accounts included those of a popular journalist with more than 1 million followers and other prominent government critics.

In exchange for spying on more than 6,000 Twitter users, the employees received tens of thousands of dollars through secret bank accounts and a designer watch, prosecutors said.

According to the complaint, between November 2014 and May 2015, Almutairi and Saudi officials convinced the two men to use their employee credentials to access private information about individuals behind certain Twitter accounts, particularly those who were critical of the Saudi government and royal family. This is the first time the United States has formally charged Saudis of spying in the US. Months later, Khashoggi was slain in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Among the accounts he accessed were those belonging to well-known critics of the Saudi government.

Prince Mohammed also has been implicated by USA officials and a United Nations investigative report in the assassination of Khashoggi. They passed internal Twitter data on users "of interest to [Al Asaker] and the Saudi Royal Family".

Abouammo allegedly began accessing private Twitter user information within a week of the meeting in London, according to the complaint.

The crown prince's former top adviser, Saud al-Qahtani, who also served as director of the cyber security federation, started the "Black List" hashtag to target critics of the government. "No", al-Qahtani wrote, according to a report by Coogle released this week.

Twitter said that it was grateful to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Justice Department. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work.

The complaint also revealed the extent of information Twitter holds, as Alzabarah also allegedly accessed information such as recent IP address information, device used, user-provided biographical information, logs containing user's browser information, and a log of all of a particular user's actions on the Twitter platform.

A Twitter spokesman told the paper that 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".

Abouammo, the only one now in U.S. custody after his arrest in Seattle Tuesday, is also charged with attempting to obstruct the FBI's investigation by providing agents with a fake invoice.

Abouammo, who is now listed as an inmate in the SeaTac federal detention center in Seattle, was expected to make his initial court appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon.

His lawyer, Christopher Black, declined to comment, as did Abouammo's wife, who did not give her name.

Those charged were former Twitter employees Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, along with Ahmed Almutairi, a marketing official with ties to the royal family. He entered the U.S.in 2005 through a Saudi Arabian scholarship and obtained degrees in computer science from various universities.

When Twitter confronted Alzabarah about his unauthorized access of private data in December 2015, he admitted to accessing the accounts but allegedly stated that he "did so simply out of curiosity". Twitter then seized his work laptop and placed him on administrative leave, escorting him from the building.

A warrant for his and Almutairi's arrests were issued as part of the complaint.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman al Saud is shown at the Al Yamamah Royal Palace

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