New book reveals Facebook fired 52 workers for spying on users

Mark Zuckerberg - Facebook CEO

Excerpts of a yet to be published new book has revealed that Facebook fired 52 employees in 2014 and 2015 for abusing their access to the social network’s user data — including male staff who obtained location data on female users they were romantically interested in.

The upcoming book was written by New York Times reporters Sheera Frankel and Cecelia Kang.

A prelauch report, published by US-based Telegraph reveal that using their access to a collection of user data through Facebook’s internal systems, male engineers at Facebook were able to view women’s locations, private messages, deleted photos and more.

In one instance described in the report, a Facebook engineer was on vacation with a woman in Europe when the two got into a fight and the woman wanted time alone. Using Facebook data, the engineer reportedly tracked her down at her new hotel and confronted her.

In another case, an engineer reportedly used Facebook data to find out that a woman he was romantically interested in regularly visited Dolores Park in San Francisco, then used the information to go there and find her with her friends.

The majority of engineers who abused private information were men who looked up women they were interested in but did not confront them in person, according to the report.

While 52 employees were fired for such transgressions in 2014 and 2015, Facebook’s then-chief security officer Alex Stamos reportedly warned that hundreds of others may have slipped by unnoticed, because, at the time, over 16,000 Facebook workers has access to users private data.

Zuckerberg conflicted

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was allegedly upset when he found out about the widespread abuse of user information — and asked why no one else at the company had thought to tighten engineers’ access to such data.

But Zuckerberg himself had designed the company’s data access system and refused to change it as the company grew, according to the report.

“At various times in Facebook’s history there were paths we could have taken, decisions we could have made, which would have limited, or even cut back on, the user data we were collecting,” one longtime Facebook employee told Frankel and Kang.

“But that was antithetical to Mark’s DNA,” the source said. “Even before we took those options to him, we knew it wasn’t a path he would choose.”

“We’ve always had zero tolerance for abuse and have fired every single employee ever found to be improperly accessing data,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Since 2015, we’ve continued to strengthen our employee training, abuse detection and prevention protocols. We’re also continuing to reduce the need for engineers to access some types of data as they work to build and support our services.”

Another bombshell excerpt from the book published last week in the New York Times said that Zuckerberg and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s relationship soured during the Trump era because Sandberg’s Obama administration connections were suddenly useless.

Hours after that report was published online, Zuckerberg and Sandberg conveniently strolled in front of news cameras at the Allen & Co. Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. Facebook vehemently denied that the Times report was accurate.


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