Marauder’s Map, named after a magical location-tracking map in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, highlighted where your friends were, provided those friends also used Messenger on their phones. At that point, Messenger automatically shared users’ locations with anyone they messaged.For the few days in May when it worked, Marauder’s Map was a Facebook stalker’s dream. When I used it, I could track a friend who was in Palo Alto for meetings down to the exact building.
Facebook, apparently, was less amused.
Aran Khanna told Boston.com that Facebook withdrew its summer internship offer three days after Marauder’s Map launched — because he violated the Facebook user agreement when he scraped the site for data, and also offered an unofficial workaround to use Marauder’s Map.
Khanna also said that Facebook’s head of global human resources and recruiting dinged him because his accompanying Medium post described the way Facebook collected and shared user data — an approach that seemed to violate the social network’s “high ethical standards” for interns.
“I decided to write this extension because we are constantly being told how we are losing privacy with the increasing digitization of our lives,” Khanna wrote in the post. “However, the consequences never seem tangible … with this code you can see for yourself the potentially invasive usage of the information you share, and decide for yourself if this is something you should worry about.”
A week later, Facebook rolled out a location-based update to Messenger. The update removed the always-on location-sharing feature that enabled the Marauder’s Map’s stalking abilities.
“A Facebook spokesperson disputed Khanna’s series of events to Mashable, calling his story revisionist history” that omits several points.
“First, we began developing improvements to location sharing months ago, based on input from people who use Messenger,” the spokesperson told Mashable. “Second, this mapping tool scraped Facebook data in a way that violated our terms, and those terms exist to protect people’s privacy and safety.
“Despite being asked repeatedly to remove the code, the creator of this tool left it up. This is wrong and it’s inconsistent with how we think about serving our community.”
As for that internship offer? Facebook told Mashable it was rescinded because Khanna misused user data and put people at risk. Khanna has disputed this, pointing out that Messenger data was technically already available to coders.
It didn’t help Khanna’s case when, after he officially deactivated Marauder’s Map, he then made his code available on Github.