- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Facebook has fired an employee accused of abusing their position to stalk women online, and a new report alleges several former social network staffers suffered the same fate under similar circumstances.

Facebook on Tuesday confirmed the firing of an unnamed security engineer accused earlier this week of stalking women by exploiting his access to user data, NBC News first reported.

“We are investigating this as a matter of urgency. It’s important that people’s information is kept secure and private when they use Facebook,” Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer, said in a statement.

Facebook became aware of claims concerning the employee in question after cybersecurity consultant Jackie Stokes publicly tweeted about the allegations over the weekend.

“I’ve been aware that a security engineer currently employed at Facebook is likely using privileged access to stalk women online. I have Tinder logs. What should I do with this information?” Ms. Stokes tweeted Sunday.

Facebook subsequently contacted Ms. Stokes about the allegations and issued a statement Monday addressing the claims.

“Although we can’t comment on any individual personnel matters, we are aware of the situation and investigating,” a Facebook spokesperson said Monday. “We have a zero-tolerance approach to abuse, and improper behavior results in termination,” the spokesperson said.

Facebook has “strict policy controls and technical restrictions so employees only access the data they need to do their jobs — for example to fix bugs, manage customer support issues or respond to valid legal requests,” Mr. Stamos added Tuesday. “Employees who abuse these controls will be fired.”

Indeed, Motherboard reported Tuesday that the recently terminated security engineer was hardly the first Facebook employee to be fired for abusing their access to user data.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two former Facebook workers said they were aware of several incidents that resulted in multiple employees being fired for mishandling user data, including for stalking exes, Motherboard reported.

Facebook did not immediately return an email Wednesday seeking comment on the former employees’ allegations.

Ms. Stokes, meanwhile, signaled her support for Facebook’s response.

“I am pleased an investigation was conducted and an appropriate action taken to improve the trust users need to have in social media platforms to live their lives fully and enjoyably online,” Ms. Stokes told NBC News. “Everyone deserves to feel safe, even on the internet.”

The world’s largest social networking service, Facebook has found itself under fire over its policies for protecting user data particularly in the wake of recent revelations involving its past ties to Cambridge Analytica, a British-based political consulting firm that amassed the personal information of 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

Outage over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal culminated Wednesday in the company announcing it will cease operations and declare bankruptcy in the U.S. and U.K. in response to the backlash brought on by news reports involving its business practices.

A “siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers,” Cambridge Analytica said Wednesday. “As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the Company into administration.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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