With apologies to readers, privacy is again the topic of this
column, with an emphasis this week on Facebook.
It appears personal details of about six million people were
inadvertently exposed by a bug in Facebook's data archive. As
a percentage, six million is not much out of more than a
billion users, but it is significant.
The bug meant email and telephone numbers were accidentally
shared with people who would not otherwise have had access to
the information. So far, there was no evidence the data
exposed was being exploited for malicious ends, Facebook
The company said it was upset and embarrassed by the bug,
which was found by a programmer outside the company.
In a related matter, technology writer Shelly Palmer says a
hacker has exploited Facebook's Graph Search to collect a
database of thousands of phone numbers and Facebook users.
Both parties agreed that all the information was left public
by users (even if the users themselves may still not realise
Facebook issued the hacker a cease and desist after he
continued to scrape data and argued with Facebook that the
availability of the information invaded users' privacy.
Brandon Copley, a mobile developer in Dallas, Texas, searched
and downloaded 2.5 million entries of phone numbers from the
He says many of these entries are empty, as they are either
not active numbers or not connected to a Facebook user with
He did note that thousands of entries did match a phone
number with the name of a Facebook user.
Facebook said data exposure came about because of the way it
handled uploaded contact lists and address books.
Typically, it said, it analysed the names and contact details
on those lists so it could make friend recommendations and
put people in touch with those they knew.
The bug meant some of the information Facebook generated
during that process was stored alongside the uploaded contact
lists and address books. That meant when someone downloaded
their profile, the extra data had travelled with it, letting
people see contact details that had not been explicitly
shared with them.
An investigation into the bug showed contact details were
inadvertently shared in that way. Despite that, Facebook said
the practical impact had been small because information was
most likely to have been shared with people who already knew
the affected individuals.
Security analyst Graham Cluley criticised Facebook's release
of the information just before the weekend and said the
disclosure had been more about ''damage limitation'' than
making sure the information reached as wide an audience as
On another Facebook topic, its Instagram subsidiary has
launched a video feature in what may be considered a big
boost to its future.
Mackline is not a big user of Instagram but according to
social media analytics site Topsy, the number of Vine videos
shared on Twitter has dropped dramatically since Facebook
launched videos on Instagram.
Facebook bought Instagram for $US1 billion ($NZ1.28 billion)
in cash and stock in 2012 and Twitter acquired Vine for $US30
million in the same year.
Vine lets its nearly 20 million users share six-second videos
and has grown increasingly popular since its launch in
The Topsy chart that maps shares on Twitter of Instagram
photos and videos versus Vine videos shows the change is
drastic. After reaching a peak of nearly 2.9 million shares
on June 15, Vine shares on Twitter dropped sharply to 1.35
million - a more than a 50% fall - on June 21, just a day
after Instagram video was launched.
It is a dog-eat-dog world in social media and it is no secret
Facebook and Twitter are competing for the top position in
the social sharing world.
It appears they are playing offence rather than defence, with
Instagram moving quickly into Vine's video space and Vine
encouraging Twitter users in an email to download Vine and
granting an informative interview to the New York