Facebook Just Made Another Serious Blunder And Leaked 419 Million Phone Numbers
Facebook just can’t keep out of the news. For a social media and social networking service that has come to be considered as one of the most successful companies, and whose founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg boasts a new worth of $68.2 billion – making him the fifth-richest person in the world – how it’s managed to get this far and still suffer numerous data breaches is beyond our comprehension. Shouldn’t they have figured this all out by now?
In what is yet another devastating blow to both the company and its users, almost 20 per cent of Facebook’s 2.3 billion users have had their mobile numbers leaked after several unprotected databases were discovered online containing the 419 million records of Facebook users. As TechCrunch reports, the databases were found on a server, with no password protections in place to prevent the widespread access to the information.
It’s since been revealed that among the databases were records of 133 million US-based Facebook users, 18 million UK-based users, and one with 50 million records on users in Vietnam. The databases contain the information of a Facebook user’s unique ID and the phone number listed on the account. In some cases, the records even contain the user’s name, gender, and country location.
In response to the report from TechCrunch, Facebook responded with the statement: “This data set is old and appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people’s ability to find others using their phone numbers. The data set has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised.”
Their tone might be one of defiance, but this breach is just the latest in a slew of security lapses involving Facebook data. The Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw the company examine more than 80 million profiles in an effort to identify swing voters in the 2016 U.S. presidential election had disastrous consequences. When the full extent of Facebook’s involvement in the scandal was revealed, billions were wiped off the company’s share price. The scandal also led to a $5 billion Federal Trade Commission settlement, which was dubbed by Zuckerberg to be an “historic deal.”
Since then, the company has had seven high-profile incidents of data breaches, including at Instagram which previously admitted to having profile data scraped in bulk.
In this instance, even if the databases are from some time ago, it’s clear that it’s a significant breach of privacy. Given that we tend to hang on to the same number for quite some time, the leak then leaves 419 million users at risk of SIM-swapping scams that could even endanger their online accounts that go beyond that of Facebook alone.
It’s a difficult time for Facebook, and after all that’s come before it, perhaps now is time for the company to learn from its past mistakes and double down on its efforts to respect the data privacy of its users.