Facebook staff have a special codename for the security alert they get if a colleague snoops on their account

YouTube/Warner BrosThe Eye of Sauron in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
  • Facebook staff get a special security alert if one of their colleagues accesses their account, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The warning is known internally as the “Sauron alert,” a reference to the all-seeing eye in “The Lord of the Rings.”
  • Facebook engineers have traditionally accessed their colleagues’ accounts to fix bugs and test new features.
  • It follows news this week that Facebook fired an employee for allegedly stalking women on Tinder.

Facebook staff get a special security alert if a colleague with privileged access snoops on their account, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The warning system is unofficially known to employees as the “Sauron alert,” the Journal said – a reference to the all-seeing eye of Middle Earth’s tormentor, Sauron, in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

A small band of Facebook employees enjoy access privileges, allowing them to log in as another user and examine private information, such as pictures and messages. This, the Journal said, allows them to diagnose errors, test new features, or investigate criminal behaviour.

The “Sauron alert” is only issued to Facebook staff and usually comes in the form of an email or a notification on their account. It was created because engineers routinely accessed their fellow workers’ accounts to test future products or fix technical issues. The alert’s official name is “Security Watchdog,” but The Journal said most staff prefer the “Lord of the Rings” reference.

Facebook’s 2.2 billion monthly active users are not alerted when Facebook staff access their account – a fact that was thrown into sharp relief this week by the news that the company fired an employee for allegedly stalking women on Tinder. It is not the first time an employee has lost their job for abusing their right to access user accounts, Motherboard reported on Wednesday.

A Facebook spokesman told the Journal that the company has considered extending the “Sauron alert” to other users. “In thinking about how we could do something similar for everyone, there are a number of important considerations that come into play-for example, how we can avoid tipping off bad actors or hindering our work to prevent real world harm in cases of abuse or other sensitive situations,” he said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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