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Former Twitter Employees Suspected of Spying for Saudi Government

Saudi Arabia: A recently unsealed criminal complaint has named three men as being involved in a campaign by the Saudi government to obtain information about online dissidents who speak out publicly on Twitter.  Two of the men, Ahmad Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah, worked for Twitter in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia respectively.  A third man named in the complaint, Ahmed Almutairi, acted as an intermediary between the two men and a man who is believed to be Bader Al Asaker. Al Asaker runs a foundation which belongs to the Saudi Crown Prince.  The two former Twitter employees are alleged to have used their access to provide the Saudi government with detailed information on specific accounts that belonged to people that the Saudi government deemed to be people of interest.

Analyst Notes

These claims are not surprising, considering the efforts being made by the Saudi government to crackdown on political dissidents–not only within Saudi Arabia but online as well. The Saudi government has faced significant backlash and criticism since the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The news of this most recent campaign to target Twitter users will likely only fan the flames of dissent against the Saudi government. This instance also illustrates the need for companies to monitor the activity on their own systems to ensure that employees are not accessing information which they do not have a work-related need to access.