Last week, Facebook discovered a bug in its system that exposed contact information for some 6 million users. The bug exposed users’ emails or phone numbers to other users who were connected to them. Facebook announced the news in a blog post late on Friday afternoon:
Describing what caused the bug can get pretty technical, but we want to explain how it happened. When people upload their contact lists or address books to Facebook, we try to match that data with the contact information of other people on Facebook in order to generate friend recommendations. For example, we don’t want to recommend that people invite contacts to join Facebook if those contacts are already on Facebook; instead, we want to recommend that they invite those contacts to be their friends on Facebook.
Because of the bug, some of the information used to make friend recommendations and reduce the number of invitations we send was inadvertently stored in association with people’s contact information as part of their account on Facebook. As a result, if a person went to download an archive of their Facebook account through our Download Your Information (DYI) tool, they may have been provided with additional email addresses or telephone numbers for their contacts or people with whom they have some connection. This contact information was provided by other people on Facebook and was not necessarily accurate, but was inadvertently included with the contacts of the person using the DYI tool.
In the blog post, Facebook reassures users that “in almost all cases, an email address or telephone number was only exposed to one person.” It plans to reach out to affected users.
The news comes while Facebook is in the middle of the NSA scandal, accused of handing over user information to the government.