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 launched a browser application from his dorm room that exploited privacy flaws on the company's mobile messenger.
Aran Khanna's app - called Marauder's Map in tribute to the Harry Potter books - showed that users of Facebook Messenger could pinpoint the exact locations of people they were talking to.
He told Boston.com he created the app. He said he wanted to show the consequences of unintentionally sharing data and thought he was doing a public service.
"I didn't write the program to be malicious," he said.
Khanna launched the app in May and said 85,000 people downloaded it.
Days later, Facebook asked Khanna to disable it. A week after that, Facebook released a Messenger app update addressing the flaw.
Facebook spokesman Matt Steinfeld said the company had been working on a Messenger update months before it became aware of Khanna's app.
"This isn't the sort of thing that can happen in a week," Steinfeld said.
Two hours before he was supposed to leave to start his internship, Khanna received a call from a Facebook employee. Khanna was told that the company was rescinding the offer. He was told it was because he had violated the Facebook user agreement when he scraped the site for data.
Khanna wrote about the experience in a case study for the Harvard Journal of Technology Science. He spent the summer interning at a Silicon Valley startup and said the back-and-forth with Facebook ended up being a learning experience as well.
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