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Facebook admits year-long data breach exposed six million users

Last updated on: June 22, 2013 14:24 IST

Facebook admits year-long data breach exposed six million users

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Gerry Shih in San Francisco

Facebook has inadvertently exposed six million users' phone numbers and email addresses to unauthorised viewers over the past year, the world's largest social networking company disclosed.

Facebook blamed the data leaks, which began in 2012, on a technical glitch in its massive archive of contact information collected from its 1.1 billion users worldwide.

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Image: An employee writes a note on the message board at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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As a result of the glitch, Facebook users who downloaded contact data for their list of friends obtained additional information that they were not supposed to have.

Facebook's security team was alerted to the bug last week and fixed it within 24 hours.

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Image: Employees dine near a fire at an outdoor cafe at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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Facebook admits year-long data breach exposed six million users

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But Facebook did not publicly acknowledge the bug until Friday afternoon, when it published an "important message" on its blog explaining the issue.

A Facebook spokesman said the delay was due to company procedure stipulating that regulators and affected users be notified before making a public announcement.

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Image: Employees wait at the IT service desk at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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"We currently have no evidence that this bug has been exploited maliciously and we have not received complaints from users or seen anomalous behavior on the tool or site to suggest wrongdoing," Facebook said on its blog.

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Image: Employees gather in their work environment for a discussion at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California.
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While the privacy breach was limited, "it's still something we're upset and embarrassed by, and we'll work doubly hard to make sure nothing like this happens again," it added.

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Image: Employees work in the international user operations area at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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The breach follows recent disclosures that several consumer Internet companies turned over troves of user data to a large-scale electronic surveillance program run by US intelligence.

The companies include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo.

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Image: An employee walks through the cafeteria at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California.
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The companies, led by Facebook, successfully negotiated with the US government last week to reveal the approximate number of user information requests that each company had received, including secret national security orders.


Image: An employee works on a computer at the headquarters of Facebook in Menlo Park, California.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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