Facebook is attempting to make things right with its users after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In a blog post, the social network’s CTO Mike Schroepfer admitted the fiasco may have exposed 87 million individuals’ data — and he outlined how that won’t happen again. As part of those security adjustments, Facebook is disabling one feature that could have contributed to the mess: Enabling anyone to search users by phone number.
People used this feature to easily look up their friends, which was handy when in a language that took effort to type out a full name or pick between multiple accounts with the same name, Facebook’s blog post noted. But ‘malicious actors’ have abused it to scrape publicly-available information, usually by dropping in phone numbers or emails into the search box and connecting them to the profile that surfaced, the social media company said.
And this might have had huge implications: “Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way,” the post read. The platform shut down this search by phone/email feature and will change how users recover their account to reduce the risk of scraping.