Former Facebook Employee Katherine Losse Discusses Master Password In Interview About Prism

By David Cohen 

Early and former Facebook employee Katherine Losse reiterated her claim that employees of the social network had access to a master password in offering her take on the National Security Agency’s Prism initiative to The Guardian.

Losse joined Facebook in 2005 as its 51st employee, writing speeches for Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, before leaving the social network in 2010 and going on to write The Boy Kings, an unfavorable take on working at the company.

She mentioned the master password in The Boy Kings:

A Stanford grad introduced me and another newbie to the janky application through which users’ emails to Facebook flowed. Once we learned how the software worked, he taught us, without batting an eye, the master password, with which we could log in as any Facebook user and gain access to all messages and data. “You can’t write it down,” he said, and so we committed it to memory.

I briefly experienced stunned disbelief: They just hand over the password with no background check to make sure that I am not a crazed stalker?

Losse told The Guardian:

Users of social networks generally assume that they are the only ones who can access the information they input, and in most cases at most companies, that is most likely not true, because at least some of the staff need to have access to user accounts in order to do their jobs. There has to be a way for the staff to manage and repair user account issues, and for this reason, user data within most startups, especially when they are young, is never completely locked up from company staff.

Even if an average staff person can’t access it, the information may still be recorded somewhere for the NSA.

She added later in the interview that as Facebook expanded, it also implemented “more secure forms of logging in to repair accounts.”

In addition to penning the book that was highly critical of the corporate culture at Facebook, Losse also engaged in a public spat with former Facebook Head of Public Relations Brandee Barker in March over a critical review by Losse of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, the recently released book by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Readers: Should anything Losse says about Facebook be taken with a grain of salt?