Ever since the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, Facebook has been struggling to prove itself as a privacy-focused company. While Mark Zuckerberg promised that the social media platform will be better, it doesn’t seem like this is happening right now as TechCrunch has reported finding ‘hundreds of millions’ of phone numbers linked to Facebook accounts online. As per the report, an unprotected server with multiple databases and over 419 million user records that spanned across geographies existed online. The server is said to feature 133 million, 18 million and more than 50 million records of Facebook users based in the US, U.K., and Vietnam respectively.
Records in the database are said to contain a unique Facebook ID for each user, along with their phone numbers. The phone number and the associated ID could be used to link and find a user’s account on the social media platform and TechCrunch claims to have done exactly the same by verifying some of the records using the provided number and matching it against the Facebook ID. Using Facebook’s password reset feature, which partially reveals a phone number, the publication says it again managed to verify some of the records. In some cases, the record would also contain additional information like a user’s name, gender and location by country.
This latest open database with user data of Facebook users was reportedly discovered by a security researcher, Sanyam Jain. After contacting the host of the database to find out who its owner is, it is said to have been taken down. Facebook stopped displaying phone numbers for more than a year now and a Jay Nancarrow, a spokesperson from the company, told TC that the said data was obtained before the social media platform decided to restrict access to users’ cell phone numbers.