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Facebook Has Fired Multiple Employees for Snooping on Users: Motherboard (vice.com) 35

Joseph Cox and Max Hoppenstedt, reporting for Motherboard: On Tuesday, Facebook fired an employee who had allegedly used their privileged data access to stalk women online. Now, multiple former Facebook employees and people familiar with the company describe to Motherboard parts of the social media giant's data access policies. This includes how those in the security team, which the fired employee was allegedly a part of, have less oversight on their access than others. The news emphasizes something that typical users may forget when scrolling through a Silicon Valley company's service or site: although safeguards against abuse may be in place, there are people who have the power to see information you believe to be private, and sometimes they may look at that data.

Motherboard granted the sources in this story anonymity to speak more candidly about Facebook's policies and procedures. One source specifically mentioned Facebook's strict non-disclosure agreement. One former Facebook worker said when they joined the company multiple people had been terminated for abusing access to user data, including for stalking exes. Another former Facebook employee said that they know of three cases where people were fired because they mishandled data, one of which included stalking. Typically, these incidents are not publicly reported.

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Facebook Has Fired Multiple Employees for Snooping on Users: Motherboard

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  • Nothing new. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl@excit e . com> on Wednesday May 02, 2018 @11:24PM (#56545000) Journal

    There is really nothing new under the sun.

    Some years ago now, I ran a MUD (a multiplayer text game, for those of us who wouldn't know what that is). We had strict rules as to under what circumstances the immortals (administrators) were allowed to monitor what the players were doing on private and local channels, essentially good cause to believe the player in question was engaged in cheating, harassing other players, etc. And if asked, you better be able to say just what those reasons were.

    I had to remove more than one immortal for inappropriately snooping on players when they didn't have good cause to, including watching some, shall we say, rather intimate encounters. Unfortunately, some people apparently find the allure of spying irresistible. It's at least good in this case, as in the one I'm describing, that someone actually seems to be watching the watchers.

    • Re:Nothing new. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2018 @11:34PM (#56545030)
      The skeptical part of me thinks that we're only hearing about this now because, as much as Facebook wouldn't like it to be known that their employees have been pulling this kind of shit all throughout the company's history, they'd rather have us talking about this than the other ways your data has been and is being abused by the company. From how Facebook has behaved, perhaps the only crime that these employees committed in Facebook's eyes was a failure to pay Facebook's going rate for access.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That is something kids today will never understand. My first admin job in IT was network monitoring, the last thing I ever wanted to do was confront anyone on their browsing habits. Granted it was a School so the pressure was certainly there to spy on everyone. I didn't care, still don't. I made it clear what we could do and you were free to ask. Get caught looking at porn in a lab though and you most certainly ended up on my radar. Even then it wasn't to get you terminated or suspended. Certainly

    • Re:Nothing new. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Thursday May 03, 2018 @02:55AM (#56545394) Homepage

      Look at the GDR, nearly half the population was working for the STASI in some form or another and spying on the rest. In policing, it's the neighborhood busybody you go to when investigating crimes as well.

    • The ones who love it the most are those with empty, meaningless lives.
    • This post brings back some good memories. I remember playing MUDs a lot back in the day. I was an immortal in the Heroes of the Lance game. At some point we were working on building an entirely new world..... and then that never happened and the MUD more or less vanished. Granted I also kind of vanished as a player and immortal so I've no clue entirely what all happened. Good memories, though.
    • Many years ago from now, I also ran a MUD. Being able to spy on other players, and also cheat in favor of your friends, were the main reason players WANTED to become immortals. For those who don't yet know how boring and predictable others are, yeah, the pull is too strong.

    • Indeed it is nothing new. It is predictable as anything. It even has a term used by the U.S. intelligence agencies LOVEINT [wikipedia.org].

      If you follow the news you will be aware that every organization that maintains records on private individuals, or has access to surveillance systems, will have some percentage of staffers using it titillate themselves, or stalk others. Spying on calls with loved ones from U.S. servicemen deployed overseas, the NSA staffers trading naked pictures, police looking up information on people

  • Meaningless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Facebook Has Fired Multiple Employees for Snooping on Users

    Facebook fired an employee who had allegedly used their privileged data access to stalk women online.


    Spying on you. Tracking you. Stalking you. All for the purpose of selling you to advertisers. This is Facebook's business. This is Facebook's ONLY business. Everything else is incidental.

    This is simply an attempt to pretend that Facebook is actually doing something. Facebook has many thousands of employees, and they will gladly sacrifice a couple of them in an attempt to to generate some positive PR.

    • Damn right it's their business. So you better cough up the dough if you want to stalk someone, these people were essentially stealing from their company by not paying for it.

      I'm somewhat certain that was the actual reason why they were fired. Not that they spied and stalked users, but that they didn't pay for the privilege.

  • by kenh ( 9056 )

    Good. Right?

  • partial red herring (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thePsychologist ( 1062886 ) on Thursday May 03, 2018 @01:18AM (#56545250) Journal

    Although I agree adhering to their internal policies is a good thing, I fear that these stories only serve to detract from the data abuse that Facebook performs as part of their business model.

    It's true that people sign up and willingly use this service. But, if you interact with those not so familiar with technology, you'll realize that they are being taken advantage of in ways that could not be anticipated by those crafting older privacy laws.

    Besides education on this issue, many countries should take a serious look at the EU's data privacy laws approach and consider applying it in their own country.

    • by Falconnan ( 4073277 ) on Thursday May 03, 2018 @02:32AM (#56545366)

      All of this is true. But at the same time, the theory is that if the data is only accessed/used by systems and not people, there are fewer ethical concerns. Note, I mean Facebook's theory. And to a limited degree this is likely true. Also, no matter how good the tools to avoid abuse are, this can and does happen everywhere sometimes. I don't see this as a newsworthy story, frankly. But here's the thing, and the potential problem with privacy in general: The services people want depend on their information being available to the service provider.

      The Internet is new, social media is newer. We don't yet have this properly incorporated into our society. People forget the telephone itself took nearly two generations for that to happen. This is going to take some time, and smart legislation.

  • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Thursday May 03, 2018 @03:46AM (#56545500) Homepage Journal

    "Employees who abuse these controls will be fired”, Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer, told Motherboard in a statement.

    Is that all? Why isn't he prosecuted?

    • Probably for the same reason he wasn't prosecuted for letting 2B accounts get hacked at Yahoo, or threatening to sue anyone who pressed the Cambridge Analytica issue. Must be nice to fail up from CSO at Yahoo to CISO at Facebook.
  • by scdeimos ( 632778 ) on Thursday May 03, 2018 @07:12AM (#56545788)

    there are people who have the power to see information you believe to be private, and sometimes they may look at that data.

    For about as long as we've had email there have been t-shirts:

    I read your email.

    If it's on the internet someone else you don't want seeing it probably already has a copy of it.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan