Facebook has been hit by yet another data scandal. This time a user in a low-level hacking forum published the phone numbers and personal data of over 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries. Including records of 32 million users in the US, 11 million in the UK and 6 million in India. The information leaked contains Facebook IDs, phone numbers, locations, birthdays, bios and in some cases the email addresses of users.
The company confirmed in a blog post that the leak was due to a flaw in its “contact importer” that has been previously reported and already patched by the company. “We believe the data in question was scraped from people’s Facebook profiles by malicious actors using our contact importer prior to September 2019,” according to a post by Mike Clark, Facebook’s product management director. “This feature was designed to help people easily find their friends to connect with on our services using their contact lists.”
Clark called the leak “another example of the ongoing, adversarial relationship technology companies have with fraudsters who intentionally break platform policies to scrape internet services” in his post and said that the company is confident that the issue that allowed for the data scraping “no longer exists.”
This isn’t the first time that Facebook has leaked their user’s data. In the Cambridge Analytica data scandal of 2018, the personal data of millions of users were obtained without their consent by a British consulting firm called Cambridge Analytica to be used for political advertising. Facebook vowed to eliminate mass data-scraping after this incident came to light but this scandal precedes a vulnerability of the platform that was discovered in 2019 which allowed the phone numbers of millions of users to be scraped from Facebook servers before the vulnerability was patched in August later that year.
If this doesn’t concern you enough then Facebook Inc has decided not to notify the more than 500 million users affected by the latest data leak. So if you are reading this then you might be a part of the small group of people who are aware of the risks associated with sharing your personal data with big tech companies that can choose to use your data as they wish without ever letting you know. Mark Zuckerberg had his phone number exposed in the data scandal and it was revealed that he uses Signal — A messaging service that is considered a safer alternative to Facebook’s messaging platform Whatsapp which is also its biggest competitor. If the CEO of Facebook does not trust his own platforms with his data then there is no reason why any user else should.
Could the Facebook data leak have been prevented?
You could prevent your data from being leaked by using secure platforms such as Signal or Telegram that don’t store your sensitive data but that won’t solve the problem at its roots. The answer to this problem is decentralization. Only when your data is moved away from the data centres of centralized cloud service providers such as Amazon Azure, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure where your sensitive data is vulnerable is when you will have complete control over your data. In blockchain-based decentralized cloud storage such as StorX, the files are split into encrypted fragments and stored across multiple storage nodes across the world instead of just one data centre. This prevents a third party from unethically accessing your data and manipulating it for their own profit motives. It is open-source, 100% trustless, faster and more secure compared to traditional cloud services that are used by popular platforms such as Facebook-owned Instagram and Whatsapp and at much more affordable prices.
It is still in an early phase but as the popularity of decentralized platforms such as decentralized social media, cloud and browser among many others keeps increasing, it is no doubt that a decentralized web where no one owns a large share of the internet or data without authorization is our future.