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Facebook launches investigation after details of users sold online

30 October, 2012

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A blogger claims to have bought 1.1 million Facebook users information for just $5. The company, which has been recently plagued with accusations that users' privacy is undermined, is now facing claims that a blogger was able to buy email addresses and user IDs which were not publicly available.

In recent months, Facebook has been accused of allowing private messages to be made public in their new 'timeline' feature - an allegation they have strongly denied.

But now Bulgairan Bogomil Shopov, a blogger and digital-rights activist, claims that he was able to buy data containing names, user IDs and email addresses, according to NBC News.

He also alleged Facebook later asked him to delete his post detailing the purchase, NBC News reported.

Shopov claims he bought the data from a user called 'Mertem' on digital odd-jobs board Gigbucks, where users offer to perform tasks in exchange for payments between $5 to $50.

'The information in this list has been collected through our Facebook apps and consists only of active Facebook users, mostly from the US, Canada, UK and Europe,' Mertem apparently wrote in the sales description.

The list may have been intended to be used to dishonestly improve a brand's Facebook page likes and fans numbers.

Such information is valuable for companies seeking to target audiences and advertise their services to them.

Facebook said it would investigate how the data entries were obtained, Forbes Magazine reported.

A Facebook spokesman added, "Facebook is vigilant about protecting our users from those who would try to expose any form of user information. In this case, it appears someone has attempted to scrape information from our site. We have dedicated security engineers and teams that look into and take aggressive action on reports just like these. We continue to investigate this specific individual."

According to the blogger's second post about the alleged purchase, Facebook's 'policy team' contacted him asking to investigate the purchase, but asked him to keep their conversation private.

"We would like you to send us this file, delete it, tell us if you have given a copy of it to someone, give us the website from which you bought it including all transactions with it and the payment system and remove a couple of things from your blog," a Facebook employee from the 'policy' department allegedly told Shopov.

The company posted a 32 percent jump in third-quarter revenue to $1.26 billion, thanks to reignited advertising growth and larger-than-expected gains in mobile.


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