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#MaraudersMap Creator Loses His #Facebook #Internship

A few months ago an intrepid (and ballsy) young Harvard student created an app that got a lot of people's attention. Usually, a sentence like that precedes a pretty epic success story which ends with a guy in a Smashing Pumpkins T-shirt making a crap-ton of money. Not in this case. The app in question was called Marauder's Map (based on the one from Harry Potter), developed by Aran Khanna, and it was intended to highlight some glaring oversights in Facebook's location tagging service.

With it installed, users could load up any active chat with somebody who had location services switched on and see where they were going and where they had been in real time. It was invasive and creepy, but for a good reason, it was a guerilla awareness campaign designed to help people understand just how much sensitive information they are broadcasting at any given moment.

Somewhat understandably, Facebook were none too pleased. Within 3 days (and 85,000 downloads) of the extension getting released, Facebook contacted Khanna and asked him to take it down. They also asked him not to speak to the press. At the time, that was as far as the story went, but earlier this week Khanna published a paper about his findings, in which he explained that a short while after the plugin was taken down, Facebook contacted him again - to tell him that they were recanting their offer for a summer internship.

For their part, Facebook claim that Khanna violated their terms, abused user data and disregarded user privacy with Marauder's Map. Equally, they say that they already had a patch locked in for messenger that removed the location tagging issues when the extension came out, they just hadn't implemented it yet. In his paper, Khanna argues that had Marauder's Map not risen to public attention, they might never had bothered dealing with the problem, since nobody knew that there was anything to fix.

The 'misuse' of the data seems to have been the primary justification for Facebook refusing to take Khanna on as an intern, they say that they have no particular issue with employees or interns uncovering privacy flaws, but not when it puts user data at risk. They are also claiming that Khanna's version of events withholds a lot of key information. Khanna, meanwhile, maintains that the principle purpose of release Marauder's Map is what people should be homing in on. He poses the question: "Must future privacy guardians always be on the outside?"

Of course, we have no real way of knowing whether or not Facebook would have dealt with the issue in their own time, free from public pressure, but their vitriolic response to someone who, at heart, was just trying to highlight flaws which need to be addressed, seems to suggest that there's at least a nominal amount of ass-covering going on. Happily, Khanna was able to find another internship with a different, smaller company, which is probably a better fit for him anyway, who knows what he might have uncovered if Facebook had actually invited him in.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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#MaraudersMap Creator Loses His #Facebook #Internship Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, August 15, 2015 Rating: 5

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