A former Twitter employee was recently found guilty of spying on users and sharing private information with Saudi Arabian officials and the royal family.

About the verdict

Following a two-week trial in a federal court in San Francisco, Ahmad Abouammo was convicted of acting as an illegal agent of Saudi Arabia in attempts to “unmask” individuals who were critical of the Saudi Arabian government on Twitter.

The Hacker News reports:

“According to court documents, [Abouammo and a coworker] leveraged their access to internal systems to unauthorizedly [sic] get hold of nonpublic information about users of specific accounts that were critical of the regime.

This information encompassing email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, and dates of birth, [was] then handed over to the officials in return for which Abouammo received $300,000 in cash and a Hublot Unico Big Bang King Gold Ceramic watch valued at $40,000.”

Federal agents had been monitoring Abouammo’s activity prior to his arrest, and when agents questioned him in 2018, he lied about receiving bribes and presented them with a forged invoice misrepresenting the amount of money he had earned for independent “consulting and media strategy work.”

U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California, commented on the verdict:

“The Northern District of California is home to many of the most innovative technology companies in the world. One consequence of this good fortune is that companies in this district often collect and store vast amounts of data from customers and vendors. In this case, the government demonstrated, and the jury found, that Abouammo violated a sacred trust to keep private personal information from Twitter’s customers and sold private customer information to a foreign government. Abouammo’s decision to accept bribes in exchange for providing to a foreign government the protected information of customers could have untold damaging consequences.

As this case demonstrates, we will not tolerate the misuse of personal information or attempts by foreign governments to recruit secret, malign agents at American technology companies. Where such misuse violates the federal law, offenders will be prosecuted.”

Abouammo faces up to 30 years in prison for his crimes, which include “acting as a foreign agent… conspiracy, wire fraud, international money laundering, and falsification of records in a federal investigation.”