Did you get an email from Facebook recently? If so, you might be one of about 6 million users who had their privacy compromised. Apparently, Facebook “accidentally” let slip the personal data of a big chunk of its user base due to a problem with its security protocols. The private data may have included phone numbers and email addresses.
Facebook discovered that a so-called “bug” in its security protocols had allowed the private phone numbers and personal email information of about 6 million users to become available to other users.
The social media giant has assured its user base that the problem has been corrected, and that it’s unlikely your information was seen by anyone that you don’t know outside of Facebook. But what does this say about the privacy of social networking, in general?
Facebook Officials: Privacy Breach Was “Limited in Scope”
Facebook privacy breaches aren’t unheard of. Usually, though, it’s a third-party that’s responsible — this time Facebook was at fault, accidentally releasing user information due to a “bug” in their security system.
But Facebook estimates that only one person was allowed to see and/or potentially download your private information, and says that it’s likely that your info wasn’t seen by anyone you would consider to be a stranger.
The Next Web has a little more information from Facebook itself:
“The bug was limited in scope and likely only allowed someone you already know outside of Facebook to see your email address or telephone number.”
Facebook has also stated that it’s making sure this won’t ever happen again. Which should pretty much be a given, but it’s good that they’re covering their bases.
The real question remains: how did this security breach even happen in the first place?
You May Also Know… 6 Million Other People
Turns out the privacy bug was caused by Facebook’s “You May Also Know” friend recommendations that are always popping up on your newsfeed. Here’s what happened:
When you create a Facebook account, you’re prompted to upload your own contact list. This allows Facebook to connect you to any friends who already have accounts, but it also creates connections outside your address book.
Facebook matches up the contact information of a new user with that of existing users to help generate friend recommendations. That’s why Facebook thinks “You May Also Know” someone.
The problem arose when a bug began causing this information to actually get saved into the accounts of various users. This means that in addition to the contact information belonging to a user’s friend list, many users were able to see additional users’ private information, as well.
Facebook uses something known as a “White Hat” program to find bugs like this, and it was this very program that found the most recent privacy bug. A program like this is one that employs hackers to find security problems. It’s been reported that the hacker who found the issue was awarded a pretty nice chunk of change for his help.
Do you have any Facebook security tips? Sound off in the comments!