A cybersecurity expert, Jackie Stokes, exposed a potential security breach by a Facebook employee on Sunday, reportedly resulting in the dismissal of the accused. In the midst of the company's roll-out of a new dating service, the incident occurred with unfortunate timing.
Facebook launched an internal investigation after Stokes reported on Twitter that one of the company's security engineers was using privileged access to stalk potential dates online. She added: "I really, really hope I'm wrong about this."
Stokes linked to the screenshot of a text conversation where an assumed Tinder date asks, "You're a security analyst? I think that's really cool," to which the person responds, "Haha more than that...but based off that...I also try to figure out who hackers are in real life...so professional stalker. So out of habit I have to say that you are hard to find lol."
Once exposed online, the messages sparked concern of an overstep by a Facebook employee, given that they were reportedly messaging with a software engineer who raised a red flag.
The alleged victim said that the Facebook employee then exposed details about them that the employee had found, such as the name of a coding project the victim had worked on.
In a statement, Facebook's chief security officer, Alex Stamos, said, "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." He added, "Employees who abuse these controls will be fired."
Responding to news that there had been a termination, Stokes said, "I do not believe that Facebook would have had a knee-jerk reaction and fired an employee without cause."
Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that it was a "huge mistake" that he had not focused more on privacy protections for users.
Nonetheless, he announced the platform's new dating service on Tuesday, which allows members to set up a private dating profile using their first name. The new tool is another service that joins recent Facebook initiatives including job postings, a marketplace, and food delivery.
In announcing the new dating service, Zuckerberg said, "I know a lot of you are going to have questions about this. We've designed this with privacy and safety in mind from the beginning."