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Musk lawyer tries to calm fears among Twitter staff concerned about jail time for security lapses

Elon Musk’s lawyers are trying to calm Twitter employees concerned about serving jail time if the company is found violating the consent decree of the Free Trade Commission (FTC).

“I understand that there have been employees at Twitter who do not even work on the FTC matter commenting that they could go to jail if we were not in compliance -- that is simply not how this works,” wrote Mr Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro in a memo, as reported by the Insider.

“It is the company’s obligation. It is the company’s burden. It is the company’s liability.”

The US government’s consumer protection agency said it was following developments at Twitter with “deep concern” after Elon Musk’s $44bn purchase of the platform.

The FTC’s statement on the billionaire’s takeover came as three top Twitter executives in charge of security, privacy and compliance at the company resigned.

Lea Kissner, Twitter’s chief information security officer, Damien Kieran, its chief privacy officer, and Marianne Fogarty, its chief compliance officer, all decided to leave the company a day before the deadline for Twitter to submit a compliance report to the FTC. Their departures were confirmed on Twitter.

Mr Spiro in a memo, also seen by Bloomberg, said Twitter had spoken to the FTC and has its first compliance check upcoming. “The legal department is handling it,” the outlet reported him as saying.

The concerns relating to the potential violation of FTC were triggered after the information security team at the company that oversaw sharing of user data with advertisers and research partners was laid off, two sources told the outlet.

According to Bloomberg, while the size of the security to the team was not immediately clear, the decision to fire the members of the team was combined with the sacking of over a dozen employees working on privacy and compliance issues at Twitter.

The information security team worked on third-party risk management, and provided security-related assurances to advertisers collaborating with Twitter, reported the outlet, citing sources.

The layoffs are particularly of concern as the FTC oversees the company’s privacy practices following a 2011 settlement. The agency also reached a deal with Twitter in May for using personal information to target advertising.

“We are tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern. No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees,” an FTC spokesperson told The Independent. “Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them.”

Meanwhile, advertising and marketing conglomerate Omnicom Group Inc, which serves 5,000 clients in 70 countries, including McDonald’s corp and Apple, has recommended they pause spending on Twitter in the short term.

Earlier, in a note posted to Twitter’s company Slack for all staff, a lawyer on the privacy team encouraged the staff to seek whistleblower protection if they felt uncomfortable at what they were being asked to do, reported The Verge.

“Elon has shown that his only priority with Twitter users is how to monetize them. I do not believe he cares about human rights activists. The dissidents, our users in un-monetizable regions, and all the other users who have made Twitter the global town square you have all spent so long building, and we all love,” the lawyer, who has not been named, wrote.

And the lawyer added that they have “heard Alex Spiro say that Elon is willing to take on a huge amount of risk in relation to this company and its users, because ‘Elon puts rockets into space, he’s not afraid of the FTC.’”