CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about the Messenger app during the Facebook F8 Developer Conference. (AP Photo)
Student loses internship after exposing privacy flaws in Facebook Messenger
August 19, 2015
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A Harvard University student says he lost his internship at Facebook. It happened after he created an app from his dorm room. The app showed privacy flaws on the company's mobile messenger.
Aran Khanna's app is called Marauder's Map. That is in tribute to the Harry Potter books. The app showed that users of Facebook Messenger could see the exact locations of people they were talking to.
He told Boston.com he created the app. He said he wanted to show the problems with sharing data without meaning to. He said he thought he was doing a public service.
"I did not write the program to be malicious," he said.
Khanna launched the app in May. He said 85,000 people downloaded it.
Facebook asked Khanna to disable it days later. Facebook released a Messenger app update a week after that. It addressed the flaw.
Facebook spokesman Matt Steinfeld said the company had been working on a Messenger update. He said the company began working on it months before it knew about of Khanna's app.
"This is not the sort of thing that can happen in a week," Steinfeld said.
Khanna received a call from a Facebook employee. The employee called two hours before Khanna was supposed to leave to start his internship. He was told that the company was taking away the internship offer. He was told it was because he had gone against the Facebook user agreement. He did that when he scraped the site for data.
Khanna wrote about the experience. It appeared in a case study for the Harvard Journal of Technology Science.
He spent the summer interning at a Silicon Valley startup. Khanna said the back-and-forth with Facebook ended up being a learning experience.
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg launched the social media site from a Harvard dorm room in 2004.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Did Aran Khanna's app demonstrate initiative, or was he merely a troublemaker?
Write your answers in the comments section below