Facebook collected 1.5 million users’ email contacts without their knowledge

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A practice woeful in itself and one that Facebook said that in hindsight was "not the best way" to go about verification, despite the company's promise to stop asking for these details, the security ramifications, it seems, went even deeper than first reported. However, there is no clarity on whether the contacts were used for ad-targeting too, or were accessible to Facebook data brokers.

The world's biggest social network said Wednesday night that the email contact lists had been "unintentionally" uploaded to Facebook following a design change nearly two years ago, and the company was now in the process of deleting them.

Since May 2016, new users to the social media site were asked to verify accounts with their email passwords when they signed up.

A Facebook spokesperson said roughly 1.5 million users were involved and the upload of such information first began in May 2016.

All those users whose contacts were taken would be notified and all the contacts it had grabbed without consent would be deleted, it said. They were also asked if they wanted to upload their address book voluntarily.

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Smoke rises in front of the altar cross at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on April 15, 2019, after a fire engulfed the building. The sense of shock at the damage was palpable in France and stirred reactions from governments across the world.

According to the company, the issue stemmed from a feature that was created to let users upload their email contacts when they signed up to help them find friends on the platform. The company says that the information was not shared with anyone, it is in the process of deleting the uploaded data, and will be notifying anyone affected by the issue.

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner, which oversees Facebook in Europe, is engaged with the firm to understand what happened and its consequences.

The incident is the latest privacy gaffe from the beleaguered technology giant, which has been plagued by scandal over the past two years. That could have a big impact on how news and other content is shared.

"Facebook has not disclosed the full extent such access might grant, nor have they provided any indication of how harvested emails might be used", Mackey added.

"Facebook removed the email password verification step from the sign-up process last month, " the company said in the statement.

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