Facebook says "unintentionally uploading" 1.5 million people's email contacts without their consent



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CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

Associated Press

  • Facebook said it "unwittingly" e-mailed e-mail contacts of 1.5 million new Facebook users since May 2016.
  • The revelation comes after a security researcher realized that Facebook asked some users to enter their email passwords when they signed up for new accounts to verify their identities, a measure largely condemned by security experts.
  • Business Insider then discovered that if you entered your e-mail password, a message popped up saying that you were "importing" your contacts without first asking for permission.
  • Facebook said that it did not intend to upload those contacts and is now in the process of deleting them.
  • For more stories, visit www.businessinsider.co.za.

Facebook harvested the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts.

The Business Insider learned that since May 2016, the social networking company collected the contact lists of 1.5 million new users on the social network. The Silicon Valley company said the contacts were "unintentionally sent to Facebook," and are now excluding them. You can read the full Facebook statement below.

The revelation comes after a security researcher realized that Facebook asked some users to enter their email passwords when they signed up for new accounts to verify their identities, a measure largely condemned by security experts. Business Insider then discovered that if you entered your e-mail password, a message popped up saying that you were "importing" your contacts without first asking for permission.

See also: Facebook accidentally sent tens of thousands of RV controllers with hidden messages, like "Big Brother is Watching."

At the time, it was not clear what was happening – but a Facebook spokesman confirmed that 1.5 million people's contacts were collected that way and fed into Facebook systems where they were used to create social connections in the Facebook and recommend friends to add. It is not immediately clear whether these contacts were also used for ad targeting purposes.

The "import contacts" dialog in question.

Screenshot / Rob Price

Facebook said that by May 2016 it offered an option to check a user's account and voluntarily upload their contacts at the same time. However, Facebook said, it changed the feature, and the text telling users that their contacts would be sent was deleted – but the underlying functionality was not. Facebook has not accessed the content of users' emails, the spokesperson added.

The incident is the latest privacy bug by the technology giant, which has gone from scandal to scandal in the past two years.

Facebook now plans to notify the 1.5 million affected users in the coming days and exclude their contacts from company systems.

See also: The cost of keeping Mark Zuckerberg safe shot up to a whopping $ 278 million after the Facebook year of hell

Full Facebook statement by a spokesperson:

Last month we stopped offering password verification via email as an option for people who checked their account when signing up for Facebook for the first time. When we looked at the steps people were going through to verify their accounts, we found that in some cases, people's email contacts were also sent unintentionally to Facebook when they created the account. We estimate that up to 1.5 million people's email contacts may have been sent. These contacts were not shared with anyone and we are deleting them. We corrected the underlying issue and notified people whose contacts were imported. People can also review and manage the contacts they share with Facebook in their settings.

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