Facebook’s response to Saturday’s news of a huge data leak was so awful

Monday was already shaping up to be a lively news day for tech journalists. That’s when the next episode of Sway, the podcast from The New York Times’ Kara Swisher, will be available to listen to, with the new interview subject being none other than Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Swisher on Friday teased via Twitter that the conversation with Cook will cover everything from the App Store drama around Parler to the iPhone maker’s feud with Facebook — the latter of which, on Saturday, inadvertently handed Cook even more ammunition to use against the social networking giant as he continues making his case that Facebook is awful. In case you haven’t heard by now, there’s been another huge Facebook data leak, encompassing personal information from more than 533 million Facebook users from 106 countries. This data was posted in a hacking forum, according to a report from Insider, which is to say — if you have a Facebook account, there’s a good chance your data has once again been exposed to hackers including everything from your phone number to your email address, birthday, full name, and more.

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One of the big dangers with a leak like this is that hackers and other malicious actors can use this information to try to access your Facebook account, and frankly any other accounts, now that they have an abundance of information about you. They can try to reset your password, for example, and use that to cause all sorts of other mischief.

On Twitter, Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois responded to a handful of news articles and posts about this leak by tweeting the same two-sentence statement: “This is old data that was previously reported on in 2019. We found and fixed this issue in August 2019.”

In other words, Facebook is responsible for a few hundred million users having their data leaked yet again (seriously, how many times is this now?), but don’t worry, it’s fine — they fixed the problem a long time ago. Not that this does anything to help un-leak the data that’s now in hackers hands, but, hey, Facebook did its part!

This is old data that was previously reported on in 2019. We found and fixed this issue in August 2019.

— Liz Bourgeois (@Liz_Shepherd) April 3, 2021

Naturally, many people have found that response to be monumentally unsatisfactory.

  • “Fixed it how?” someone tweeted in response. “Clearly the data is still out there.”
  • “How do I change my date of birth?” reads another response.
  • Also, “I’ve had the same email for a decade. Love this dismissive responses.”
  • And: “You’re head of Communications for @Facebook and this is your response!? How about “we’re deeply sorry for your data being exposed for a second time. Please contact our CS team and we’ll help you restore and protect your account.” Just try harder!”

Needless to say, this is all going to help shine an even bigger light on anything Cook says about Facebook during what promises to be a long and in-depth interview with Swisher on Monday. Here are some of the Facebook-related comments from Cook that Swisher has already shared from the upcoming interview:

“All we’re doing, Kara, is giving the user the choice whether to be tracked or not,” Cook says at one point during the podcast, a reference to the iOS changes that will make it harder for Facebook to hoover up data about what its users are doing around the web. “And I think it’s hard to argue against that. I’ve been — I’ve been shocked that there’s been a pushback on this to this degree.”

And then, when Swisher goes on to ask him how he thinks this might impact Facebook’s bottom line, the Apple CEO lowers the boom. “Yeah, Kara, I’m not focused on Facebook. So I don’t know.”

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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