In the latest case of privacy lapse from Facebook, phone numbers linked to more than 419 million accounts have been found on several databases, a media report has said. According to TechCrunch, the databases contain records of 133 million users from the US, 18 million from the UK, and over 50 million records users from Vietnam. The publication mentions that the listed records have Facebook user IDs in the form of unique digits attached for each account, their phone numbers, genders as well as their geographical locations.
The databases were public because the servers were not password protected, which means that anyone could access them. Facebook confirmed the development but it claimed that the number of accounts that are reported to be exposed is not true. It says that the number of accounts which are confirmed to be compromised are around half of the reported 419 million.
‘The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised,’ AFP quoted a Facebook spokesperson as saying. It added that several entries were duplicates and some data was old.
This is seen as the largest expose after the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook believed that information of up to 87 million people -- mostly in the US -- were improperly shared with the British political consulting firm. It reportedly used the user data provided by Facebook to develop a computer programme to predict the results of the US presidential elections in 2016 and influence the voters.
In a blog post, Mike Schroepfer, Chief Technology Officer at Facebook, said that the data of 562,455 Indian users was also shared with Cambridge Analytica. He said that SCL Group, the parent organisation of Cambridge Analytica, has its office headquartered in Indirapuram (Ghaziabad) and its regional offices in Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cuttack, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kolkata, Patna and Pune. Apparently it helped clients to identify and target key groups within the population ‘to influence their behaviour to realise a desired outcome’.