The appointment is a coup for Uber, as Sullivan is a veteran of the security industry.
"This is a chance to help build the culture of a young and growing organization, and to continue building upon the safety and security initiatives that are the backbone of Uber's success," Sullivan, 46, said in a statement.
The new hire underlines how Uber is fast becoming a prime recruiter in talent-starved Silicon Valley, where young tech companies are willing to pay higher salaries and offer greater perks to win over the best minds in the field.
Uber, in particular, has been aggressively recruiting in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to two people with knowledge of the company's hiring practices. A job-listing page on Uber's website shows hundreds of open positions in a number of countries.
Uber, which is based in San Francisco, last year hired away Travis VanderZanden, a former executive at one of Uber's largest American ride-sharing competitors, Lyft, and brought on the political strategist David Plouffe to lead policy and strategy.
For Uber, hiring in security is particularly important. In February, the company disclosed that it had experienced a breach of its systems, which potentially exposed the names and driver's license identification numbers of as many as 50,000 of the company's drivers.
Uber has also faced criticism for its driver screening process, some lawmakers accusing the company of taking shortcuts on background checks for new drivers. A small number of passengers have alleged that they were physically or sexually assaulted by Uber drivers.
According to his job description, Sullivan will most likely be responsible for several of those areas, from overseeing the security of Uber's vast driver data to improving safety measures for drivers and passengers.
"It's no longer about traditional metrics for safe transportation or keeping our community's data private and secure," Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber, said in a statement. "But about how we lead efforts to redefine and strengthen physical and data security in the location-based world."
In a blog post, Kalanick said Uber had grown to "nearly 300 cities in 55 countries" and completes "millions of trips per day."
Uber previously said it was working on new technology to improve passenger safety, including biometric identification and driver monitoring, as well as hiring more staff members to respond to customer incidents around the clock. On Thursday, Kalanick also alluded to potential collaboration with city and state governments on rider safety.
This is likely to be where Sullivan's background will play a large part. Before becoming chief security officer at Facebook, he spent four years at eBay as a senior security director, and he was also a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of California's computer hacking unit. In his new job, he will work alongside Katherine Tassi, Uber's managing counsel for data privacy.
"Joe's many contributions have made the Facebook community safer and more secure," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "We wish him the best in his future endeavors."
© 2015 New York Times News Service