Aran Khanna, a student at Harvard University, where a certain social network was created, told Allison Pohle of Boston.com that Facebook rescinded its offer of a summer internship at the last minute after he created a browser application called Marauder’s Map, which has since been disabled.
Marauder’s Map used the location data that is automatically shared by Facebook Messenger to display where users were when they sent messages, including users in group chats that they were not friends with.
Khanna told Pohle that on May 26, he posted about Marauder’s Map on Twitter, Reddit and Medium, and three days later, Facebook asked him to disable the app and deactivated location sharing from desktops.
In early June, the social network introduced a feature for Messenger, allowing users to share their locations by sending maps. Facebook global communications lead for privacy and public policy Matt Steinfeld denied that the new feature was a response to Marauder’s Map, telling Pohle:
This isn’t the sort of thing that can happen in a week. Even though we move very fast here, they’d been working on it for a few months.
As for Khanna’s dealings with Facebook, he told Pohle his would-be manager at the social network called him May 27 and asked him not to speak to the press—a request reiterated that evening by Steinfeld.
He added that he deactivated Marauder’s Map, as requested by Facebook, but he also updated his Medium post to reflect that, telling Pohle that he received a call from the social network two hours before he was due to leave to begin his internship, telling him that the offer was revoked and saying that he violated Facebook’s terms of service by scraping data from the site.
Finally, Khanna told Pohle he received an email from the company’s head of global human resources and recruiting, saying that his post on Medium did not meet the “high ethical standards” expected of interns.
Steinfeld told Pohle:
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’s inconsistent with how we think about serving our community.
Khanna told Pohle he created Marauder’s Map to highlight the consequences of unintentionally sharing data, adding:
I didn’t write the program to be malicious.
He ended up accepting an internship with another firm in Silicon Valley.
Readers: What does this incident say about Facebook’s hacker culture?