Twitter’s Source Code Leak Could Represent ‘Major Crisis’

March 29, 2023

World Intellectual Property Review

Jim Pooley was quoted in an edition of World Intellectual Property Review on March 29, 2023. His comments are presented below, and you can read the full text of the article by clicking the "Read Article" button.

Trade secret expert James Pooley believes the leak could represent a “major crisis” for the social media platform and suggests that the drastic loss of staff could be a factor.

“For a software-based company like Twitter, publication of any significant part of its source code represents a major crisis,” he tells WIPR.

“That said, it’s difficult to discern the impact when we don’t yet know what portions of the code were posted, what significance they have to the functioning or security of the platform, and how long they were available on GitHub.”

He adds: “We don’t know who might have grabbed a copy of the code during the months that it was there. In any event, the theft implies some level of failure of the company’s information security programme.

“How was it that someone was able to get access to exfiltrate the information? Why was it not discovered sooner? A reasonable assumption is that the rapid contraction in Twitter’s workforce, with so many experienced people being made redundant or resigning, caused the company’s security controls to degrade.

“One can only hope that, in addition to its effort to find the culprit, Twitter also focuses on assessing the cause of this breach and shoring up its procedures and oversight.”

There may be broader implications, too, according to Pooley.

“Although a partial or temporary disclosure of confidential information will not necessarily destroy its status as a trade secret, an extreme breakdown like this could support an argument that Twitter has lost trade secret protection for some or all of its source code because it has failed to engage in ‘reasonable steps’ to protect it, as required under TRIPS Article 39 and related national laws.”

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