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PIO loses FB stint for exposing privacy flaw

DECCAN CHRONICLE | DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Aug 14, 2015, 12:22 pm IST
Updated Mar 28, 2019, 5:15 am IST
Aran Khanna, Harvard student
 Aran Khanna, Harvard student

Hyderabad: Indian-origin Harvard student Aran Khanna has reportedly been denied an internship by Facebook after he created a Google Chrome plug-in, which exposes serious privacy flaws within Messenger — the social media giant’s instant messaging service.

Mr Khanna, a mathematics student, created browser extension Marauder’s Map in May. The plug-in made use of location data sourced from Facebook to show users the precise location of friends, and even those who were part of the ‘friends list’.

Mr Khanna’s creation soon went viral and Marauder’s Map was downloaded over 85,000 times, reports, Boston.com. Three days later, Facebook asked Mr Khanna to take down the application after the firm received several negative reports in the media, which highlighted the lack of privacy. Facebook also updated Messenger and gave users better control of GPS data. Reports claim Messenger had been sharing and using users’ location data since 2011.

But to Mr Khanna’s shock, Facebook also cancelled his summer internship claiming he had violated a user agreement when he “scraped” the site for location data.
“This mapping tool scraped Facebook data in a way that violated our terms, and those terms exist to protect people’s privacy and safety.

“Despite being asked repeatedly to remove the code, the creator of this tool left it up. This is wrong and it is inconsistent with how we think about serving our community,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying by Boston.com Later, in a detailed description of the event, Mr Khanna revealed what really happened.

“Three days after my initial posts, Facebook phoned me to inform me that it was rescinding the offer of a summer internship, citing as a reason that the extension violated the Facebook user agreement by “scraping” the site. The head of global human resources and recruiting followed up with an email message stating that my blog post did not reflect the “high ethical standards” around user privacy expected of interns.

According to the email, the privacy issue was not with Facebook Messenger, but rather with my blog post and code describing how Facebook collected and shared users’ geo-location data.” Mr Khanna has since accepted an internship with another Silicon Valley firm.

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