Elon Musk’s Twitter Upheaval Could Trigger Billion-Dollar Regulatory Fine, its Lawyer Warns

The departure of Twitter's top security and compliance officers could mean Twitter has violated an agreement with the FTC.

Twitter exec exodus
Twitter lost three top security and privacy officers this week.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Elon Musk’s massive layoff at Twitter has triggered an exodus of the company’s security and privacy executives. As of Nov. 10, Twitter’s chief privacy officer Damien Kieran, chief information security officer Lea Kissner, and chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty had all resigned. The absence of these roles could result in a hefty fine from the Federal Trade Commission, a Twitter lawyer warned.

Following the departure of those executives, Musk’s new legal department, led by his personal lawyer Alex Spiro, asked Twitter engineers to “self-certify” compliance with FTC rules and other privacy laws. “All of this is extremely dangerous for our users,” a Twitter lawyer wrote in a company Slack channel on Nov. 10, first reported by The Verge. “Also, given that the FTC can (and will!) fine Twitter BILLIONS of dollars pursuant to the FTC Consent Order, extremely detrimental to Twitter’s longevity as a platform.”

Twitter was fined $150 million by the FTC in May for using users’ personal information to target ads. As part of an agreement to settle the case, Twitter also agreed to a 20-year consent order that requires the company to conduct privacy reviews before making changes to its product. The order also requires Twitter to submit a compliance notice to the FTC two weeks after a change in company control. Twitter’s compliance officer Fogarty resigned on Nov. 9, one day before that notice was due.

In response to The Verge report, the FTC issued a statement on Nov. 10 saying it’s “tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.”

“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees. Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them,” the agency said.

In an email to Twitter employees later Nov. 10, Musk said Twitter will do “whatever it takes to adhere to both the letter and spirit of the FTC consent decree.” “Anything you read to the contrary is absolutely false. The same goes for any other government regulatory matters where Twitter operates,” he wrote. Elon Musk’s Twitter Upheaval Could Trigger Billion-Dollar Regulatory Fine, its Lawyer Warns