Anonymous Employee Reveals Ugly Details of Facebook's Inner Workings
by Warren Riddle — Jan 15th 2010 at 9:18AM
The whining and gnashing of teeth that immediately greet any changes to Facebook have become a cliched social networking punchline. The site, though, is currently being hammered over very real and pertinent concerns that go far beyond mere member tempter-tantrums.
The brouhaha began early last year when Facebook implemented, and then almost immediately retracted, new Terms of Service that many believed would give the site perpetual ownership of member information (like photographs). Over the course of the last year, despite the reversal, those concerns over privacy have only escalated, and some recent revelations by an anonymous Facebook employee should only serve to intensify the cacophony of complaints.
The spike in Facebook vitriol has amplified primarily because of December changes to Facebook's privacy guidelines. The new user settings were initially described as a method for members to completely control their profile activities. People steadily identified some glaring holes in the supposed security measures, though, including the inability to securely lock down profile pictures, fan pages, and friends lists.
According to the unnamed snitch, those aren't the only issues, as the employee claims that everything you do is not only permanently stored and saved, but completely available to Facebook staff and associates. The site All Facebook has expectedly and deservedly retaliated to the whistleblower claims, and has dismissed the supposed revelations as common knowledge with which all Facebook members should be completely familiar.
Speaking to the Rumpus, the Facebook worker asserted that when a member makes "any sort of interaction on Facebook -- upload a photo, click on somebody's profile, update your status, change your profile information," that activity is stored on Facebook's servers. In order to identify a member's "best friends," a feature which quietly debuted recently, the site tracks and stores (at one of four massive data centers) every possible interaction. All Facebook countered by saying this practice is "widely known," and that "if you don't want Facebook collecting information about you, don't give it to them." (Excellent customer service -- MySpace would be thrilled if Facebook adhered to an official "take it or leave it" approach.)
One of the most troubling revelations in the anonymous interview is the claim that any Facebook employee could log into any member account with a single master password (which was some derivation of Chuck Norris -- not so funny in this scenario). The shadowy interviewee also said that various employees (at least two of whom were terminated) were caught inappropriately using that password to gain access to accounts. But, according to some, that password issue "isn't really that big of a deal." That may not sound comforting, but the site says it has a zero tolerance policy for snooping and it has also created a Chief Privacy Officer position.