Uber snags Facebook exec as its first chief security officer

Joe Sullivan, who had the same role at the social network, makes the leap to the car-hailing service, where he'll be in charge of data security.

Rachel King Staff Writer
Rachel King is a staff writer for ZDNet based in San Francisco.
Rachel King
2 min read

Joe Sullivan, Facebook's chief security officer, has been hired away by Uber. James Martin/CNET

Uber has been on damage control over the past few months, from battling the legality of its business in multiple foreign markets to downplaying the often brash comments made by company leadership.

While ensuring the actual physical safety of its clients has garnered possibly the most wide-scale attention, patching up data security has also been pushed to the top of the agenda.

On Thursday, the ride-hailing service announced it has hired Joe Sullivan as its first chief security officer.

Sullivan has been serving in the same role at Facebook, meaning he should be no stranger to overseeing the data management plans for scores of users across multiple markets worldwide.

During a press briefing at the social network's Silicon Valley headquarters last year, Sullivan opined about how ensuring the security of a company's global user base starts with improving the security culture and dialogue within the company itself.

Prior to Facebook, Sullivan spent several years at eBay and PayPal, as well as eight years with the US Department of Justice while prosecuting cybercrime.

At Uber, Sullivan will be tasked with spearheading cybersecurity and safety efforts on a data infrastructure supporting millions of trips per day across 300 cities in 56 countries.

As this momentum continues, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said that Uber is no longer simply "just an app" but a critical part of the infrastructure of cities.

"It's no longer about traditional metrics for safe transportation or keeping our community's data private and secure, but about how we lead efforts to redefine and strengthen physical and data security in the location-based world," Kalanick said in the blog post Thursday. "We see opportunities ahead not just in technology, through biometrics and driver monitoring, but in the potential for inspiring collaborations with city and state governments around the world."

Sullivan already has his work cut out for him in shoring up Uber data security for users and drivers alike.

In February, the San Francisco-based company revealed its databases had been compromised last year, then waited several months before alerting affected drivers. Uber said it discovered in September the "one-time" incident of unauthorized access. The breach took place last May, according to a memo.

An investigation discovered "a small percentage" of current and former Uber driver data (including names and driver's license numbers) were stored in the database that was compromised.

That small percentage consisted of roughly 50,000 drivers across multiple states.