News, Culture & Society

Facebook’s head of security Alex Stamos ‘leaving over fake news’

Facebook chief information security officer Alex Stamos is leaving the company in August in a row over how the company should deal with fake news, sources say.

The social media company removed Stamos’ responsibilities to counter government-sponsored disinformation in December after he told them he was planning to leave, the source said.

Stamos confirmed he was still currently employed by Facebook, although did not deny plans to leave in the summer, and tweeted that his role at the company has changed.

Facebook chief information security officer Alex Stamos (pictured in July)  is leaving the company in August in a row over how the company should deal with fake news

‘I’m currently spending more time exploring emerging security risks and working on election security,’ he tweeted. 

Facebook could not be immediately reached for comment.

The New York Times first reported his departure from the company.

Inside Facebook, Stamos had been strongly advocating for investigating and disclosing Russian activity on the social media platform, often to the consternation of top executives, including Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the newspaper said.

Stamos was persuaded to stay through August to oversee the transition of his duties because company executives thought his exit would look bad, it said, citing current and former employees.

Facebook removed Stamos' responsibilities to counter government-sponsored disinformation in December after he told them he was planning to leave, the source said

Facebook removed Stamos’ responsibilities to counter government-sponsored disinformation in December after he told them he was planning to leave, the source said

His departure comes as Facebook faces fresh scrutiny amid media reports that political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked on President Donald Trump’s election campaign, harvested private information from more than 50 million Facebook users. 

Members of Congress called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s actions on Monday in the wake of the revelation.

Meanwhile, British privacy regulators are seeking a warrant to search the offices of the U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica as both US and European lawmakers demand an explanation of how the consulting firm gained access to the data.  

Facebook, who was already under fire over Russia’s alleged use of Facebook to sway spread divisive and false news posts before and after the 2016 election, said on Monday it had hired forensic auditors from the firm Stroz Friedberg to investigate and determine whether Cambridge Analytical still had the data.

‘Auditors from Strop Fried berg were on site at Cambridge Analytic’s London office this evening,’ the company said in a statement late Monday. ‘At the request of the UK Information Commissioner´s Office, which has announced it is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation, the Strop Fried berg auditors stood down.’

Members of Congress called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook's actions on Monday in the wake of the revelation

Members of Congress called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Facebook’s actions on Monday in the wake of the revelation

Facebook shares closed down nearly 7.0 percent on Monday, wiping nearly $40 billion off its market value as investors worried that new legislation could damage the company’s advertising business.

‘The lid is being opened on the black box of Facebook data practices, and the picture is not pretty,’ said Frank Passable, a University of Maryland law professor who has written about Silicon Valley’s use of data.

Cambridge Analytica, a communications firm based in London, was hired by the team behind Donald Trump’s successful US presidential bid.

An affiliate of British firm Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), Cambridge Analytica has offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.

The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.

‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.

Speaking to TechCrunch in 2017, CEO Alexander Nix said the firm was ‘always acquiring more’ data.

‘Every day we have teams looking for new data sets,’ he told the site.

The firm said it strongly denied the media claims, and that it deleted all Facebook data it obtained from a third-party application in 2014 after learning the information did not adhere to data protection rules.

However, further allegations about the firm’s tactics were reported late Monday by British broadcaster Channel 4 which said it secretly taped interviews with senior Cambridge Analytical executives in which they boasted of their ability to sway elections in countries around the world with digital manipulation and traditional political trickery.

Cambridge Analytical rejected the allegations, saying in a statement that the Channel 4 report ‘is edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business.’

Facebook was already facing calls on Saturday for regulation from the U.S. Congress after the reports in the New York Times and London’s Observer over the weekend.

Republican Senator John Kennedy called on Zuckerberg to testify before Congress, and Democratic Senator Ron Widen sent a letter to Zuckerberg asking about company policies for sharing user data with third parties.


Facebook says ads that ran on the company’s social media platform and have been linked to a Russian internet agency were seen by an estimated 10 million people before and after the 2016 US presidential election.

The company turned 3,000 ads over to three congressional committees in October 2017 as part of their investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 election.

In a company blog post, Facebook’s Elliot Schrage said the ads appeared to focus on divisive social and political messages, including LGBT issues, immigration and gun rights. 

In many cases, the ads encouraged people to follow pages on those issues.

Facebook said last month that the ads appear to have come from accounts associated with a Russian entity called the Internet Research Agency.

Fewer than half of the ads – which ran between 2015 and 2017 – were seen before the election, with 56 percent of them seen after the election. 


Facebook usually sends lawyers to testify to Congress, or allows trade organizations to represent it and other technology companies in front of lawmakers.

Facebook and other social media companies including Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube have taken voluntary steps to restrict possible foreign interference and combat false news, but they have not been forced by law or regulation to make changes and legislation on the issue has stalled.

Late on Monday, the Connecticut Attorney General said the office will initiate an inquiry into Facebook data policies.

The Senate was expected to move forward on Monday with a bill that would chip away at the internet industry´s legal shield, a decades-old law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, with a bill intended to address online sex trafficking. 

The measure has already passed the House and is expected to soon become law. Facebook said on Friday it had learned in 2015 that a Cambridge University psychology professor lied to the company and violated its policies by passing data to Cambridge Analytical from a psychology testing application he had built.

Facebook said it suspended the firms and researchers involved and said the data had been misused but not stolen, because users gave permission. 

‘(Tech companies) are going to get a lot more scrutiny over what data they are collecting and how they are using it,’ said Shawn Cruz, senior trading specialist at TAD Ameritrade in Chicago. 

Earlier this year, Facebook admitted that the social media platform may be detrimental to democracy.

This information obtained by Cambridge Analytica is said to have been used to help elect President Donald Trump in the US, as well as to boost the Brexit campaign in the UK.  CEO Alexander Nix (pictured) has said the firm was 'always acquiring more' data

This information obtained by Cambridge Analytica is said to have been used to help elect President Donald Trump in the US, as well as to boost the Brexit campaign in the UK. CEO Alexander Nix (pictured) has said the firm was ‘always acquiring more’ data

In a series of blog posts in January, Facebook execs said the site was ‘far too slow’ in identifying negative influences that rose with the 2016 US election, citing Russian interference, ‘toxic discourse,’ and the ‘dangerous consequences’ of fake news.

Facebook added that it was ‘making up for lost time’ in fighting forces that threaten to ‘corrode’ democracy.  

The firm has rolled out some major changes to the News Feed, with plans to prioritize content from friends and family, and make posts from business, brands, and media less prominent – and, ensure the ‘news people see, while less overall, is high quality.’  

Zuckerberg himself said that he wanted 2018 to be one of ‘self-improvement’ for the social site, but stopped short of announcing clear policy plans.

‘The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do – whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent,’ he said in a post in early Janaury.

‘My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools.’ 


Facebook uses personal data it collects on members using their on-site activity, location settings and internet connection to target its ads.

The firm uses 98 data points to create ‘complete consumer profiles’. 

Some of this data is taken from your Faebook profile information, but the social network watches online activity for the rest.

It can ‘see’ virtually every website you visit if you are logged into Facebook. 

The 98 data points it tracks are:

1. Location

2. Age

3. Generation

4. Gender

5. Language

6. Education level

7. Field of study

8. School

9. Ethnic affinity

10. Income and net worth

11. Home ownership and type

12. Home value

13. Property size

14. Square footage of home

15. Year home was built

16. Household composition

17. Users who have an anniversary within 30 days

18. Users who are away from family or hometown

19. Users who are friends with someone who has an anniversary, is newly married or engaged, recently moved, or has an upcoming birthday

20. Users in long-distance relationships

21. Users in new relationships

22. Users who have new jobs

23. Users who are newly engaged

24. Users who are newly married

25. Users who have recently moved

26. Users who have birthdays soon

27. Parents

28. Expectant parents

29. Mothers, divided by “type” (soccer, trendy, etc.)

30. Users who are likely to engage in politics

31. Conservatives and liberals

32. Relationship status

33. Employer

34. Industry

35. Job title

36. Office type

37. Interests

38. Users who own motorcycles

39. Users who plan to buy a car (and what kind/brand of car, and how soon) 

40. Users who bought auto parts or accessories recently

41. Users who are likely to need auto parts or services

42. Style and brand of car you drive

43. Year car was bought

44. Age of car

45. How much money user is likely to spend on next car

46. Where user is likely to buy next car

47. How many employees your company has

48. Users who own small businesses

49. Users who work in management or are executives

50. Users who have donated to charity (divided by type)

51. Operating system

52. Users who play canvas games

53. Users who own a gaming console

54. Users who have created a Facebook event

55. Users who have used Facebook Payments

56. Users who have spent more than average on Facebook Payments

57. Users who administer a Facebook page

58. Users who have recently uploaded photos to Facebook

59. Internet browser

60. Email service

61. Early/late adopters of technology

62. Expats (divided by what country they are from originally)

63. Users who belong to a credit union, national bank or regional bank

64. Users who investor (divided by investment type)

65. Number of credit lines

66. Users who are active credit card users

67. Credit card type

68. Users who have a debit card

69. Users who carry a balance on their credit card

 70. Users who listen to the radio

71. Preference in TV shows

72. Users who use a mobile device (divided by what brand they use)

73. Internet connection type

74. Users who recently acquired a smartphone or tablet

75. Users who access the Internet through a smartphone or tablet

76. Users who use coupons

77. Types of clothing user’s household buys

78. Time of year user’s household shops most

79. Users who are “heavy” buyers of beer, wine or spirits

80. Users who buy groceries (and what kinds)

81. Users who buy beauty products

82. Users who buy allergy medications, cough/cold medications, pain relief products, and over-the-counter meds

83. Users who spend money on household products

84. Users who spend money on products for kids or pets, and what kinds of pets

85. Users whose household makes more purchases than is average

86. Users who tend to shop online (or off)

87. Types of restaurants user eats at

88. Kinds of stores user shops at

89. Users who are “receptive” to offers from companies offering online auto insurance, higher education or mortgages, and prepaid debit cards/satellite TV

90. Length of time user has lived in house

91. Users who are likely to move soon

92. Users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket or Ramadan

93. Users who travel frequently, for work or pleasure

94. Users who commute to work

95. Types of vacations user tends to go on

96. Users who recently returned from a trip

97. Users who recently used a travel app

98. Users who participate in a timeshare