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New book claims Facebook fired 52 employees for spying on users

Published Jul 15th, 2021 9:20PM EDT
Facebook employees spying
Image: Stefani Reynolds - CNP/MEGA

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Earlier this week, The Telegraph received an advance copy of a new book titled “An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination” and shared some of its most disturbing revelations. In their book, reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang allege that Facebook fired dozens of employees who abused their access to spy on users between 2014 and 2015.

Horror stories from Facebook

One of the stories in the report is about an engineer who was on vacation with a woman in Europe. The woman left the hotel they had been sharing after a fight. The Facebook engineer then used his access to the location data to track her down at another hotel.

In another instance, a woman had stopped responding to a Facebook engineer’s message after their date. He then used his position to secretly spy on her. As the book explains, he had access to “years of private conversations with friends over Facebook messenger, events attended, photographs uploaded (including those she had deleted), and posts she had commented or clicked on.” He could even check her location in real-time because she had the Facebook app on her phone.

Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos reportedly made Mark Zuckerberg aware of the problem in September 2015. Stamos told the CEO that Facebook employees were spying on users “nearly every month.” More than 16,000 employees had access to private user data at the time. Stamos had a few recommendations, from tightening access to requiring employees to submit formal requests to access data. The problem, as the source cited in the book noted, is that these changes would be “antithetical to Mark’s DNA.”

Facebook responds to reports of employees spying

“We’ve always had zero tolerance for abuse and have fired every single employee ever found to be improperly accessing data,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider in a statement when asked about the new book’s allegations. “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.”

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to stop a determined Facebook employee from spying on you. Of course, you could always get off of Facebook, but not many of us are willing to do so.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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