Not 50 Million, Not 87 Million… Facebook Admits Data From ‘Most’ of Its 2 Billion Users Compromised by ‘Malicious Actors’

Posted by on April 5, 2018 in Media & Arts, Social Media with 0 Comments

Facebook admitted Wednesday that “most” of its 2 billion users likely had their personal information collected by “malicious actors.” (Photo: Legal Loop)

By Jessica Corbett | Common Dreams

Buried in Facebook’s announcement that Cambridge Analytica had improperly gathered data from up to 87 million users—rather than the previously reported 50 million—was the stunning admission that “malicious actors” exploited the social networking site’s search features to collection information from “most” of its 2 billion users.

The detail was pointed out on Twitter by Wired journalist Matt Burgess, among others:


“Until today, people could enter another person’s phone number or email address into Facebook search to help find them,” Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer wrote in a company blog post on Wednesday. “Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way. So we have now disabled this feature.”

In other words, Facebook leadership believes that over the course of several years, these “malicious actors” utilized the now-disabled search features to collect whatever personal information that most of its users had sometimes unknowlingly set to “public.”

As the Washington Post explained:

[M]alicious hackers harvested email addresses and phone numbers on the so-called “Dark Web,” where criminals post information stolen from data breaches over the years. Then the hackers used automated computer programs to feed the numbers and addresses into Facebook’s “search” box, allowing them to discover the full names of people affiliated with the phone numbers or addresses, along with whatever Facebook profile information they chose to make public, often including their profile photos and hometown.

…Facebook users could have blocked this search function, which was turned on by default, by tweaking their settings to restrict finding their identities by using phone numbers or email addresses. But research has consistently shown that users of online platforms rarely adjust default privacy settings and often fail to understand what information they are sharing.

Hackers also abused Facebook’s account recovery function, by pretending to be legitimate users who had forgotten account details. Facebook’s recovery system served up names, profile pictures and links to the public profiles themselves. This tool could also be blocked in privacy settings.

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility was and that was a huge mistake. It was my mistake,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

This admission comes as Facebook faces heightened scrutiny over the Cambridge Analytical scandal, which has raised widespread concerns about digital privacy. In what had been called the social media company’s “largest-ever data breach,” a series of investigative reports last month revealed that Cambridge Analytica—a political consultancy data firm hired by then-candidate Donald Trump and other GOP politicians—exploited Facebook to secretly harvest personal information from millions of Americans.

In response, digital advocacy groups have demanded that Facebook leadership immediately notify users whether their data was collected by the firm, and the Federal Trade Commission has launched a probe of the company, which expanded public awareness of the issue and caused some users to realize for the first time the “creepy” reach of Facebook’s data collection.

“This is a crisis of trust. Mark Zuckerberg needs to demonstrate that Facebook users’ wellbeing—not Facebook’s profit line—is the company’s number one priority,” Kurt Walters, campaign director at Demand Progress, said Wednesday. “Facebook must stop the foot-dragging and immediately alert everyone whose personal data was compromised by Cambridge Analytica or other third parties.”

Next week, Zuckerberg is slated to testify before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to discuss protection of users’ personal data.

Read more great articles at Common Dreams.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on YouTube

New Title

NOTE: Email is optional. Do NOT enter it if you do NOT want it displayed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Many of the articles on this site contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental issues, human rights, economic and political democracy, and issues of social justice. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. If you wish to use such copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use'...you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. And, if you are a copyright owner who wishes to have your content removed, let us know via the "Contact Us" link at the top of the site, and we will promptly remove it.

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Conscious Life News assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms.

Paid advertising on Conscious Life News may not represent the views and opinions of this website and its contributors. No endorsement of products and services advertised is either expressed or implied.
Top

Send this to friend