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Facebook Fires 52 Employees for Spying On Users

Facebook fired 52 employees for abusing their access to the social network’s user data — including men who obtained location data on women they were romantically interested in, according to a new report. 

Male engineers used their access of user data through Facebook’s internal systems to view women’s locations, private messages, deleted photos, and more, according to a new report in the Telegraph.  

In one incident 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. The engineer then used Facebook data to track her down at her new hotel and confront her.

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

The majority of engineers who abused users’ private information were men who looked up women they were interested in, but did not confront them in person, according to the report, which is an excerpt from an upcoming book by New York Times reporters Sheera Frankel and Cecelia Kang. 

52 employees were fired for such incidents in 2014 and 2015. However, Facebook’s then-chief security officer Alex Stamos warned that hundreds of others may have slipped by unnoticed.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was allegedly upset when he found out about the widespread abuse of user information. He 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, the report alleges.

“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,” a longtime Facebook employee told Frankel and Kang.

“But that was antithetical to Mark’s DNA,” the source continued. “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 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.