Australian cybersecurity start-up UpGuard revealed on Wednesday that information about 540 million Facebook users gathered by the Cultura Colectiva media company was publicly accessible via an unprotected Amazon S3 bucket. This shows that there have been little efforts from Facebook in ensuring foolproof security of the data that it extracts from its users.
The incident is the latest in a growing catalogue of data issues for the company, following widespread incidents of misinformation being spread on the network, breaches of user data and allegations of political manipulation.
A Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company's policies prohibit storing Facebook information on public databases and, once the company was alerted to the files, it worked with Amazon to remove the data. "We are committed to working with the developers on our platform to protect people's data", the company added.
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The UpGuard Cyber Risk team can now report that two more third-party developed Facebook app datasets have been found exposed to the public internet.
On the other hand, the At the Pool leak was taken offline while UpGuard were investigating the origin and before they could send an official email. "But as these exposures show, the data genie can not be put back in the bottle", UpGuard wrote in its blog post.
It is also a punch in the eye for proponents of what many detractors call the "surveillance economy" where advertising and e-commerce is predicated on intelligence about users' every move and desire.
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The database's owner, Cultura Colectiva, has issued a statement, saying the collected data was gathered from fanpages it manages over Facebook, and that the information was openly-shared by users. The number of affected users is believed to be in the range of millions and tens of millions.
UpGuard found the data about the Facebook users as part of regular checks it carries out on Amazon S3 servers that have inadvertently exposed databases. Despite lacking the scale of the Cultura Colectiva leak, it involved the exposure of 22,000 passwords in plaintext, which would obviously be bad if those affected used those passwords for anything else.
Peralta did not respond to questions about when the company accessed the data and why passwords were found if the company did not have access to them. It also limited apps with Facebook Login access from requesting any info beyond a user's name, profile picture, and email address without an official app review.
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