KEY POINTS

  • A data "buyer" said they paid the seller but did not receive anything
  • The data was allegedly obtained by scraping through publicly available information
  • Facebook had a six-hour outage on Monday

Following a series of unfortunate events, tech and social media giant Facebook headlines the tech world again after a report surfaced online claiming personal data of 1.5 billion Facebook users have been placed for sale on a hacking forum.

It appears the controversy surrounding Facebook is not yet over after a member of a hacking forum claimed to have the personal data of 1.5 billion Facebook users. In a report released by Privacy Affairs, one user supposedly got a quote of $5000 for information belonging to 1 million Facebook users.

Lawmakers have so far been slow and ineffective in their efforts to regulate social media behemoth Facebook
Lawmakers have so far been slow and ineffective in their efforts to regulate social media behemoth Facebook AFP / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV

The user also claimed the data contains user IDs, names, genders, locations, phone numbers and email addresses. After the news spread online, a supposed prospective buyer revealed they paid the seller but has not received anything.

"The forum seller has today responded and denied the scam accusations, continuing to claim that the data is real. The seller commented they are willing to cooperate with administrators of the forum to prove the authenticity of the data," Privacy Affairs said in a new update.

On Tuesday, Senator Marsha Blackburn mentioned this news during a Senate subcommittee hearing that involved Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, disclosed internal documents that prove Facebook's negative impact, most notably on COVID-19 vaccine information.

"News broke yesterday that the private data of over 1.5 billion — that’s right, 1.5 billion — Facebook users is being sold on a hacking forum,” the senator, who is the subcommittee’s ranking Republican member, shared.

Facebook, through its spokesman Joe Osborne later said in a comment to Newsweek, "We’re investigating this claim and have sent a takedown request to the forum that’s advertising the alleged data."

As of press time, the thread advertising the supposed personal data of 1.5 billion Facebook users has disappeared from the forum.

Contrary to what many speculated, the sellers obtained the users' data not by hacking but by scraping through the information that are publicly available. The process involves extracting web data and organizing them into lists and databases.

While it is true that the data was already public, it could still be used to compromise user security. The data can be used by malicious attackers and operatives, allowing them to intercept log-in codes, send scam text messages and phishing emails.

On Monday, Facebook experienced a global outage that has kept its social media platforms and products, including WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger and Oculus offline for several hours.

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