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Too Many 'Unintentional' Friends on Facebook?

Group of friends in the street with smartphone
By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

You know that moment when a relative comes for the holiday, and brings along univited guests? Awkward, but what are you gonna do?

That's not exactly what Mark Zuckerberg did, but it's really getting awkward at Facebook. The company admitted that it collected some 1.5 million users' email contacts without their consent. In other words, there are a lot of Facebook 'friends' who didn't want to be there.

But what are you gonna do, sue?

'Unintentionally' Uploaded

Facebook said the email contacts had been "unintentionally" uploaded to the company following a design change about two years ago. The company said it is "in the process" of deleting them.

The problem started in May 2016, when the company began automatically collecting new users' contact lists as they signed up. Prior to that, users had the option to upload contacts to help them find friends already on the platform. The design change did it without their permission.

But it's hard to explain away, especially since Facebook has a history of privacy problems. A company spokesperson said they didn't know about the awkward uploads until recently. Ashkan Soltani, a former chief technology officer for the Federal Trade Commission, tweeted that it was "one of the most legally actionable behaviors by @facebook to date."

"I'm confident regulators will be taking a look," he said.

Latest Privacy Problem

Facebook, which is still dealing with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, has continuing privacy issues. Last year, it suffered the biggest hack in its history.

Engineers said at least 50 million users could have been compromised. Hackers could have logged in to their accounts, assumed their identities, and accessed their user history -- including private messages.

Of course, 50 million is a relatively small sample of the Facebook universe. The company has billions of users. Real ones. Probably.

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