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April 21, 2021

Facebook internal email accidentally reveals strategy to deal with data breach

A Facebook internal email, sent accidentally to Belgium-based Data News, has revealed its strategy for dealing with the data breach of 533 million users.

Facebook confirmed to the BBC that the memo was genuine. Credit: Brett Jordan/Unsplash.

A Facebook internal email, sent accidentally to Belgium-based Data News, has revealed its strategy for dealing with the data breach of 533 million users.

The email indicates that the social network anticipated other such incidents and was planning to label it as an industry problem and a normal occurrence.

Also mentioning that the media attention would die down, Facebook was planning to issue limited statements regarding the issue.

Facebook confirmed to the BBC that the memo was genuine: “We understand people’s concerns, which is why we continue to strengthen our systems to make scraping from Facebook without our permission more difficult and go after the people behind it.”

This was followed by a spokesperson adding that LinkedIn and Clubhouse had also encountered “data scraping” issues.

Earlier this month, data was breached from the accounts of 533 million people in 106 countries and was published on a hacking forum.

Facebook put down the data as old and from a reported leak in 2019 and denied any mischief, explaining that the data was scraped from publicly available information on the website.

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However, a probe from the Irish data commissioner is now on regarding whether it flouted GDPR rules, in addition to a mass legal action from affected EU citizens.

Dated 8 April, the email was published by Data News several days after the story broke and said press coverage on the issue from “top tier global publications” had already diminished by 30%.

Data News noted: “Publications have offered more critical takes of Facebook’s response framing it as evasive, a deflection of blame and absent of an apology for the users impacted.”

The Belgium-based news site also questioned Facebook’s assertion of the issue being resolved in August 2019. It pointed out that ethical hacker Inti De Ceukelaire had warned Facebook two years earlier regarding the possibility of finding someone’s phone number through the social network.

De Ceukelaire told the BBC: “The leaked memo revealed what we have suspected for a long time, but now it is there in black and white – Facebook cares more about its reputation than informing its users.

“At first they were completely silent, then they gave the press one sentence about how the data was old and when that didn’t work, they started talking about how it was all about scraping rather than Facebook’s own system.”

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