In case you missed it, a very thought provoking and rather intriguing question came to the fore recently with regards to Facebook privacy and what it really means for individual users. If you have heard of the UK trance group Above & Beyond, then you must be familiar with a certain Paavo Siljamäki who is one of the members of this group and also the Director at the record label, Anjunabeats. When he visited the Facebook office in Los Angeles recently, he noticed something very interesting and posted his experience on a Facebook post on his wall.
So once he gave permission to a Facebook engineer to ‘look’ at his profile, the said engineer simply accessed his account without even entering a password. He then proceeded to view all the private contents of Siljamäki’s account, and this raises several questions about how many engineers at Facebook actually have this master access to user accounts. Facebook has more than 9,000 employees across the world and it’s a rather sinister thought that these 9,000 people can access any user’s account at any time without a password.
Several other questions which ultimately come to my mind are as follows:
- What rules govern the circumstances around which Facebook employees can access user accounts?
- How can we know when someone has accessed our account in this manner?
- What guarantees that Facebook employees will not misuse this information and access for their own motivations?
- Do the teams of other social media accounts and personal services also have the same master access to user accounts?
VentureBeat, a tech news site reached out to Facebook for comment on this issue and received a somewhat reassuring comment. However, the jury still remains out on how much we should actually trust our Facebook security and privacy when we voluntarily divulge personal information to these online platforms. Here’s what the Facebook spokesperson had to say:
So Facebook has confirmed that they do have such a tool to access user accounts at will. However, job functions determine who has such access and misuse of this access results in immediate termination. Moreover, this tool is closely monitored and regulated and also requires user consent to be used. So we can assume that only if a user is facing a particular issue and approaches Facebook for assistance, will this tool actually be put to use.
We would like to know what you think. Are you comfortable knowing that Facebook employees have ‘master’ access to your account? And do you think this access can be misused?