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Facebook fires engineer who allegedly used access to stalk women

The employee allegedly boasted he was a 'professional stalker.'
Image: FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration
Laptop users stand in front of a screen projection of Facebook logo.Dado Ruvic / Reuters

Facebook has fired a security engineer who allegedly took advantage of his position to access information he then used to stalk women online, the social media giant confirmed to NBC News Tuesday.

“We are investigating this as a matter of urgency," Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer at Facebook, said in a statement to NBC News.

"It’s important that people’s information is kept secure and private when they use Facebook," he said. "It’s why we have strict policy controls and technical restrictions so employees only access the data they need to do their jobs – for example to fix bugs, manage customer support issues or respond to valid legal requests. Employees who abuse these controls will be fired.”

The claim surfaced in a tweet Sunday by Jackie Stokes, a cybersecurity consultant, who alleged she received copies of a text conversation on the dating app Tinder that showed "a security engineer currently employed at Facebook is likely using privileged access to stalk women online."

Stokes said she determined the person was probably employed by Facebook by cross-referencing his online profiles. She also added that she was not the subject of any invasion of privacy by the person.

NBC News has not received or reviewed the chat messages Stokes referenced, but a screenshot of a text message she added to the Twitter thread showed one participant saying that their job responsibilities involved being "more than" a security analyst. The user said their role included trying to "figure out who hackers are in real life," or, in other words, being a "professional stalker."

"I have to say that you are hard to find," the user added, "lol."

After receiving word of the employee's termination, Stokes thanked the numerous Facebook employees she said had reached out to her personally to offer assistance.

"I am pleased an investigation was conducted and an appropriate action taken to improve the trust users need to have in social media platforms to live their lives fully and enjoyably online," Stokes told NBC News in an online message. "Everyone deserves to feel safe, even on the Internet."

The incident comes as the #MeToo movement has swept through companies across America, forcing businesses to act swiftly in response to allegations of sexual harassment and assault by its employees. At the same time, Facebook's privacy protection practices have come under fierce fire since it disclosed that a researcher gave data on 87 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica, a British data-mining firm that worked with the election campaign for President Donald J. Trump.

The revelations lead to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress and implementing tougher privacy measures and expanding user privacy controls.

On Tuesday, during the company's annual developer conference, Facebook announced it would let users opt out of browser history tracking. It also unveiled a new dating feature.