Facebook fires engineer accused of using data access to stalk women

3 May 2018

Man using Facebook on his laptop. Image: BlurryMe/Shutterstock

Facebook has terminated the employment of an engineer who was allegedly using his data privileges to track women down online.

Facebook has terminated the employment of a security engineer following accusations that he stalked women online with the help of the data access privileges his job allowed him.

The revelations could not come at a worse time for Facebook, as it continues to deal with the consequences of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and attempts to launch an online dating service on its platform.

The new Facebook dating profile service will be opt-in and users will be recommended matches based on dating preferences, shared interests and mutual friends. Users will also be able to meet people with similar interests through group and event pages they are members of.

Alleged misuse of data privileges

According to NBC News, the fired engineer allegedly exploited his position at the company to access information in order to stalk women online.

Cybersecurity consultant and founder of Spyglass Security, Jackie Stokes, tweeted the claim first on Sunday 29 April. She said she had received copies of a Tinder text chat, which showed “a security engineer currently employed at Facebook is likely using privileged access to stalk women online”.

One screenshot provided to Stokes showed a user stating their job involved being a “professional stalker”, with the same user adding, “I have to say you are hard to find, lol.”

Facebook responds swiftly

Facebook’s security head, Alex Stamos, said the company was investigating the incident as “a matter of urgency” and added that the security of user information is of paramount importance to the company.

He explained that this prioritisation of privacy involved “strict policy controls and technical restrictions so employees only access the data they need to do their jobs – for example to fix bugs, manage customer support issues or respond to valid legal requests”.

“Employees who abuse these controls will be fired,” he said.

Stokes told NBC News that she was pleased with the investigation and thought the level of action taken was appropriate “to improve the trust users need to have in social media platforms to live their lives fully and enjoyably online”.

A similar incident occurred at Uber in 2016, when a former forensic investigator testified that employees regularly abused the company’s system to spy on the movements of celebrities, personal friends and acquaintances, and political figures.

Man using Facebook on his laptop. Image: BlurryMe/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects