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Facebook confesses to collecting 1.5 million users’ contacts through email

Facebook confesses to collecting 1.5 million users’ contacts through email
  • Email contact lists of new users were reportedly collected since May 2016 without their knowledge.
  • Facebook said it ‘unintentionally uploaded’ them when new users opened their accounts on the platform.

Crisis after crisis, Facebook has now admitted that it harvested email contact lists of 1.5 million new users. It has been reported that the contacts were automatically imported to Facebook when new users entered their email addresses for signing onto the website. This latest incident comes right after another episode where Facebook openly asked users to provide their email passwords’ for verification.

The big picture

  • When new users tried to sign up for Facebook, they were shown a message prompt saying that their email contacts were being ‘imported’. Once the email was entered, the process could not be interrupted nor there was an option to cancel.
  • The social networking company said that the contact list was ‘unintentionally uploaded to Facebook’, and is now on the process of deleting them.
  • It also divulged that this contact list data was used to improve its ad targeting, to build a network of social connections, as well as to recommend friends for the users.
  • A Facebook spokesperson said that this was not used to access content in users’ emails.

Fixes the issue

Upon disclosure, a Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider that the issue was ‘fixed’ and they were planning to notify the affected users as well as delete their contacts which were gathered without prior consent.

“We estimate that up to 1.5 million people's email contacts may have been uploaded. These contacts were not shared with anyone and we're deleting them. We've fixed the underlying issue and are notifying people whose contacts were imported. People can also review and manage the contacts they share with Facebook in their settings," the Facebook spokesperson said.

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