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Facebook apparently forgot it was collecting new users’ email contacts

For three years, 1.5 million new users had their contacts uploaded to Facebook’s servers without their knowledge or consent.

by David Gilbert
Apr 18 2019, 2:25pm

Facebook’s epic run of self-owns shows no sign of slowing down.

Despite repeated proclamations from CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his team of executives that they will do better, there’s yet another revelation in the unrelenting torrent of negative news about the social network: The company admitted Wednesday night that it had “unintentionally” scooped up the email contacts of 1.5 million users signing up to the service for the first time — without their knowledge.

Back when people still trusted Facebook and people still used email, the company gave some new users the option to confirm their email address by inputting their email password and at the same time voluntarily import their email contacts onto the site in order to make it easier to find their friends.

That process was redesigned in May 2016, but while the language explaining the import of email contacts was removed, the feature itself remained.

So for the next three years, 1.5 million new users had their email contacts uploaded to Facebook’s servers without their knowledge or consent.

The company says it didn’t realize the problem until this month, and claims this was all an accident. Facebook has contacted the users affected, telling them the contacts were not shared with anyone and that they are now being deleted.

A source speaking to CNBC said affected users were not limited to the U.S.

While the scale of this invasion of users’ privacy is not on the same level as the Cambridge Analytica scandal (87 million users) last March or the hack of user data (50 million users) in October, it once again shows how Facebook’s focus on scooping up as much personal data has caused trouble for the company.

The latest revelation comes in the same week that leaked internal documents show that Facebook leveraged its dominant position to bully competitors and used its huge trove of user data as a bargaining chip.

“Facebook privacy is an oxymoron and the gift that keeps on giving,” Sam Curry, chief security officer at security firm Cyberreason, told VICE News in an email. “Facebook needs to make privacy a core value right now, bringing in independent advisers, observers and thought leaders to offer a fresh perspective and an opportunity to answer the tough questions.”

Cover: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gestures and delivers his speech during the VivaTech (Viva Technology) trade fair in Paris, on May 24, 2018. Photo By ELIOT BLONDET/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)