Uber taps Facebook exec as first security chief

Uber Technologies signage hangs at a company office
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Uber Technologies signage hangs at a company office

Everytime you take an Uber, sensitive personal and financial data float up to the cloud.

To keep that information from ever-more aggressive hackers, Uber has just tapped a longtime Facebook executive to be its first chief security officer.

"We are both in cyberspace and on city streets all at once; a bridge between bits and atoms," Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post on Thursday. "And as we get into tens of millions of rides a week, we continue to challenge ourselves to do even better when it comes to safety and data security."

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Joe Sullivan, who started at Facebook in 2008 and assumed the role of security chief two years later, is joining Uber at a particularly sensitive time for the San Francisco-based company.

The ride sharing service has been all over the news in the past year, for its $40 billion private market valuation, rapid global expansion, ruthless recruiting mechanisms and even its use of data. The company was soundly criticized for a secret tool called "God View," which let the company track riders in a way that some saw as intrusive.

Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc.
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber Technologies Inc.

At the same time, Uber is trying to promote itself as a force for good—an easy and affordable alternative to drunk driving and an effective way to help kids and the elderly get from place to place.

To continue its ascent, Uber needs consumers to not only feel safe handing over their data, but as passengers in cars operated by complete strangers.

Sullivan's job will be as much about insuring physical security as the cyber variety. Sullivan, who previously spent eight years with the Department of Justice, will be working in conjunction with city and state governments around the world.

"This is a challenge where I get to take what makes Silicon Valley special and apply it to a product that directly impacts people's lives everyday as they move around the world's cities," Sullivan wrote.