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Dozens of Facebook Engineers Illegally Accessed Private User Data, New Book Says

Silviu STAHIE

July 15, 2021

Dozens of Facebook Engineers Illegally Accessed Private User Data, New Book Says

Numerous Facebook engineers used their privileges to access private data on users of the platform, and were later fired, according to a new book named "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination."

Facebook employees accessing private data on platform users always seems like a worst-case scenario, not something actually happening. The truth is that it seems to happen a lot more often than we would believe, although it's difficult to form an accurate image of the phenomenon during the past few years.

According to Forbes, which received an advanced copy of the "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination" book, written by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, Facebook fired 52 people in just one year, from 2014 to 2015, for using their position to access private data.

While these events took place six years ago, Facebook's chief security officer at the time, Alex Stamos, wanted to take some stern measures and drastically reduce the number of people with access, although it's unclear how much success he had.

In some situations, engineers used their access to spy on women they had an interest in, reading their messages, viewing photos (even deleted ones) and even accessing their location through the Facebook app installed on the victims' phones.

The official reason for this type of extended access was to allow some of the engineers to "cut through the red tape" that would have otherwise slowed them down. Facebook told Forbes that it made some changes to fix this problem.

"We've always had zero tolerance for abuse and have fired every single employee ever found to be improperly accessing data," a spokesperson told Insider. "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."

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