Anonymous Employee Reveals Facebook Master Password and Says the Company Saves Everything You’ve Eve

by 10 years ago

[inline:2]The Rumpus has up an incredible interview with an anonymous Facebook employee, who reveals so much about himself and what he does for the company that he must have received permission from Mark Zuckerberg and Co. to speak. Otherwise, he’s unemployed right now. Anyway, the real revelations are about Facebook itself. The above-the-line synopsis is that Facebook has saved on one of its thousands of servers every single thing you have ever done on Facebook. Literally, everything.

Every photo, every wall post, every comment, every profile you’ve ever clicked on — that’s right, every page you’ve ever viewed on Facebook — is saved somewhere. Delete something? It still exists somewhere in the world of Facebook. They also take system-wide snapshots of the entire site every hour of every day of every week of every month. At one point in the interview, he says that some of this is only a fairly recent phenomenon (only over the past three three months or so), but I think it’s safe to say that your entire Facebook history is on a server somewhere in the world.

That’s the subject of the majority of the interview, and although it might be alarming to some, it’s really not all that surprising. What jumped out at us was all the statistics and other tidbits of information the anonymous employee reveals. The employee reveals Facebook’s Master Password, how many photos the network currently hosts, and how they mobilized to get as many Iranians onto Facebook as possible during last June’s protests. Here are the highlights:

  • There was a Master Password that allowed access to any account: Chuck Norris (“upper and lower case, symbols, numbers, all of the above”). It could only be used from within Facebook’s headquarters and on Facebook’s ISP. Several employees used it for harm and got fired; the anonymous employee himself has used it on numerous occasions, mostly for engineering purposes, he says, but early on he used it to look at profiles he didn’t have access to. The Master Password no longer works, but that doesn’t matter because some employees can pull up most data from deep within the servers at any time anyway, and there’s also something called a “Switch Login,” which grants employees access to your account as well. This is mostly to handle compromised accounts.
  • 200 to 220 million users who have signed on in the past month. More than 300 million accounts that have been active at one time or another.
  • Largest photo distributor in the world: “upwards of a trillion photos.” “When we need to load a webpage in half a second, we need to go and find upwards of a thousand photos — think about your newsfeed — in one get [snaps], and instantaneously. Its hard to do.”
    • Four data centers: in Santa Clara, San Francisco, New York, and London, each with approximately five to eight thousand servers. That’s 20,000 to 32,000 total servers.
    • “We do eye-tracking to see where your eyes move while you browse Facebook For example, when we want to introduce new features, like when we streamlined the browsing of photo albums, you know, where you can click next above the photo, and the page stays the same except you get the next photo? We did tests on that, and actually found out it increased the number of page views by 77%, essentially because we were reducing 77% of the page load, and therefore it was loading faster, and thus generating more clicks.”
    • Re: foreign outreach and facilitating access in Iran: “We translated the entire site into Farsi within 36 hours. It was our second right-to-left language, which was actually really difficult for us. Literally the entire site is flipped in a mirror. The fact that we did it in thirty-six hours — they hired 20 some-odd translators, and engineers worked around the clock to get it rolled out — was pretty f*cking phenomenal.” Facebook signed up three times as many people in the first few days as is normal.
    • The lead engineer is re-writing the code for the entire site from PHP to Hyper PHP, which they claim will reduce “CPU usage on our servers by 80%.”
    • “At least 70% of Facebook engineers are from Harvard and Stanford.”
    • Re. moving into one office in Stanford Research Park: “It was just nice to have everyone in one office. Before, any meetings that happened were inconvenient for most people. I mean, engineering was split up into three offices. It was a pain. Now there’s more unity, more ease of communication. Everything feels more internal. It’s super-friendly. I think the coolest thing about the work environment is the trust. They don’t care what, where, how, when, as long as you get your shit done. If you want to work at a bar, the ball game, a park, the roof, they don’t give a f*ck. Just get your shit done. Hence I was able to ditch work, come have two pitchers with you, and I will literally be able to go back and get my work done. And it goes a long way. Because I know I can get these things done. I know I’m going to have to go back. And I may be there until ten or eleven tonight.” “

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