Tuesday September 17, 2019
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Facebook Exposes Over 419mn Phone Numbers in Another Data Breach

“The data set has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised,” the spokesperson added

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FILE - Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA

In yet another data breach, over 419 million phone numbers linked to Facebook users have been discovered in an open online database.

The database included 133 million records of US-based Facebook users, 18 million records of UK users and more than 50 million records of users in Vietnam, TechCrunch reported on Wednesday.

This latest data breach exposed millions of users’ phone numbers just from their Facebook IDs, putting them at risk of spam calls and ‘SIM-swapping’ or ‘SIM jacking’ where a mobile number is transferred to a new SIM card.

Sanyam Jain, a security researcher at The Hague-based non-profit organisation GDI Foundation, found the database.

After the web host was contacted, the Facebook users’ database was pulled offline.

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FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Some of the records also had the user’s name, gender and location by country.

A Facebook spokesperson said the data set was old and had been deleted.

“This data set is old and appears to have information obtained before we made changes last year to remove people’s ability to find others using their phone numbers,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Also Read: Google to Pay a Fine of $170mn Over YouTube’s Child Privacy Violations

“The data set has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised,” the spokesperson added.

There have been several incidents after the Cambridge Analytica episode involving 87 million users where Facebook acknowledged series of privacy lapses, including the latest admission that it mishandled millions of users’ passwords on Instagram and “unintentionally” uploaded emails of nearly 1.5 million of its new users. (IANS)

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Facebook Offers Help To India On Fake News Traceability On WhatsApp

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country

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Over 300 million of the 550 million smartphone and broadband users in the country are low on literacy and digital literacy. Pixabay

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country, without any reference towards tracing the origin of the WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp had categorically said in the past that the government’s demand to trace the origin of messages on its platform is not possible as it “undermines the privacy of the people”.

Clegg who was the UK’s former Deputy Prime Minister before joining Facebook, visited India last week and met several senior government officials, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and offered to assist law enforcement agencies in all possible ways like Artificial Intelligence-driven data analytics and access to “meta-data”.

“Facebook cares deeply about the safety of people in India and Nick’s meetings this week provided opportunities to discuss our commitment to supporting privacy and security in every app we provide and how we can continue to work productively with the government of India towards these shared goals,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

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When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message. Pixabay

Last December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed changes to Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

The proposed regulations require a company to “enable tracing out of originators of information on its platform as required by legally authorised government agencies”.

The end-to-end encryption feature in WhatsApp makes it difficult for law enforcement authorities to find out the culprit behind a misinformation campaign.

The mobile messaging platform with over 400 million users has already called the proposed changes “overbroad”.

“Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine the end-to-end encryption, and its private nature, leading to possibilities of being misused,” a company spokesperson had earlier said.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook has over 300 million users in India.

WhatsApp in February stressed that some of the proposed government regulations for social media companies operating in India are threatening the very existence of the app in its current form.

“Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages,” Carl Woog, WhatsApp’s Head of Communications, had told IANS.

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The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Facebook has filed a petition to transfer the case looking at enforcing traceability on WhatsApp to the Supreme Court. It is currently sub judice in the Madras High Court.

Tamil Nadu, however, is aiming to get Facebook’s transfer petition dismissed by the Supreme Court.

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras recently stressed that the issue can be easily resolved without diluting end-to-end encryption and affecting the privacy of users.

“If WhatsApp says it is not technically possible to show the originator of the message, I can show that it is possible,” said V. Kamakoti.

ALSO READ: Youtube Changes Counts Views To Reduce Inflating Growth Hacks

When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message.

So the message and the identity of the creator can be seen only by the recipient.

“When that recipient forwards the message, his/her identity can be revealed to the next recipient,” he said, adding that as per the court ruling, those who forward a harmful message can also be held responsible in certain cases. (IANS)