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Uber hires Facebook exec as its first security chief

Uber has just created the role of chief security officer, hiring Facebook head of security Joe Sullivan for the position.

With security concerns mounting over data as well as rider safety, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick evidently feels there’s an overriding need for robust action to stop the issues spinning out of control.

Sullivan’s experience looks to stand him in good stead for the challenges ahead. He’s worked in similar roles at not only the social networking giant, but also eBay, PayPal, and the Department of Justice, where he helped to bring prosecutions linked to cyber crime.

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According to a message posted on the Uber blog by Kalanick on Thursday, Sullivan will be charged with overseeing the company’s global cybersecurity and safety efforts, which are currently led by Katherine Tassi and Phil Cardenas, respectively.

“It’s easy to see the Uber logo on your phone and think of us as just an app,” Kalanick wrote. “But in many ways we’ve become a critical part of the infrastructure of cities. We are both in cyberspace and on city streets all at once; a bridge between bits and atoms. 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.”

Sullivan will be keen to prevent a repeat of incidents such as the data breach reported by the San Francisco-based company back in February, which may have exposed personal data belonging to around 50,000 of its drivers, both current and former.

And with millions of trips every day in 300 cities across 56 countries, Sullivan’s challenge to ensure driver and rider safety is certainly not for the faint hearted.

Related: Uber goes on offensive in Europe, files complaints against authorities

Indeed, it will seem to some that the ride-sharing company is constantly having to deal with safety-related incidents. One such high-profile case saw an Uber passenger in India accusing her driver of rape, while a driver in San Francisco was last year charged with attacking a passenger with a hammer in a dispute over the best route to take. As for driver safety, there’ve been recent reports of some being attacked by taxi drivers in cities where Uber’s presence is opposed.

The company has in recent months been putting in place a number of measures to protect riders and drivers, with Sullivan expected to continue with that work.