There’s no shortage of Facebook news this week on account of F8, but this creepy Facebook-adjacent event with a good outcome seems worth noting. An engineer accused of abusing his access to data at the company in Tinder messages has been fired, Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch today.
The issue arose over the weekend: Jackie Stokes, founder of Spyglass Security, explained on Twitter that someone she knew had received some rather creepy messages from someone she personally confirmed was a Facebook engineer.
The engineer described themselves as a “professional stalker,” which however accurate it may be (they attempt to unmask hackers) is probably not the best way to introduce yourself to a potential partner. They then implied that they had been employing their professional acumen in pursuit of identifying their new quarry.
Note that the above isn’t the whole exchange, just an excerpt.
Facebook employees contacted Stokes for more information and began investigating. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer, offered the following statement:
We are investigating this as a matter of urgency. It’s important that people’s information is kept secure and private when they use Facebook. It’s why we have 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.
And fired he was, “immediately,” a Facebook spokesperson confirmed.
The company later responded to a question regarding what those controls were that should ostensibly have prevented the person from accessing the data of a prospective date. Access is logged and employees requesting data outside their purview are warned and the need for access confirmed, the spokesperson explained. Automated systems also exist to flag abuse, though they don’t seem to have helped much here.
It’s disturbing that someone in such a privileged position would use it for such tawdry and selfish purposes, but not really surprising. It is, however, also heartening that the person was fired promptly for doing so, and while everyone was busy at a major conference, at that.
(Updated with Facebook’s full statement and confirmation, and again with more information.)