Release of New Facebook Messaging Reveals Bugs, More Security Concerns

November 15, 2010

Not even a day after Facebook’s release of its new messaging system that left most critics indifferent and only mildly curious, problems have negatively trended the debut. A bug in the Facebook system started disabling user accounts, primarily female, with claims that they were “inauthentic”. This trend was first reported just after midnight PST ironically enough on the other social media powerhouse, Twitter.

Reporters at Read Write Web were able to get this announcement from a Facebook spokesperson:

Earlier today, we discovered a bug in a system designed to detect and disable likely fake accounts. The bug, which was live for a short period of time, caused a very small percentage of Facebook accounts to be mistakenly disabled. Upon discovering the bug, we immediately worked to resolve it. It’s now been fixed, and we’re in the process of reactivating and notifying the people who were affected.

Individuals who had their account disabled reported these suspicious instructions:

Please upload a government-issued ID to this report and make sure that your full name, date of birth, and photo are clear. You should also black out any personal information that is not needed to verify your identity (e.g., social security number).

If you do not have access to a scanner, a digital image of your photo ID will be accepted as well. Rest assured that we will permanently delete your ID from our servers once we have used it to verify the authenticity of your account.”

With so many consecutive Facebook security scares, it is obvious that this bug, though resolved, still has more havoc to reap. After a beautiful introduction to the new messaging concept, a la “Cisco: The Human Network”, it is quite possible the backlash from this bug could cause enough harm to make people all the more hesitant to use the new mail feature. Though it is hard to fathom this being enough to get people to boycott Facebook, as nothing has been successful enough so far, there is certainty a trend towards insecurity and hard questions about how Facebook handles privacy, and how it will up the ante with the advent of @facebook.com. With Facebook already being the fourth largest phishing target, topped only by Paypal, Ebay, and HSBC, consecutively. Reporters at Mashable are keen that the new Facebook messaging will only increase Facebook as a target. They ask several poignant questions:

  • How will Facebook deal with spam messages that are sent from a user you call a friend? As we’ve seen in the past, it’s not difficult for rogue apps to take over your message account and send malware links or spam to people on your friends list.
  • What types of attachments can be sent and received via Facebook.com e-mail addresses? Will these attachments be scanned for malware before being delivered to your inbox?

This is only several of the questions that need to be asked, and will continued to be asked as the new Facebook messaging continues to launch. While the new messaging system could have a lot of potential for those who spend a significant portion of time on Facebook, for the rest we eagerly await the developments and the downfalls as they progress. It is reassuring to see people asking the right questions about Facebook and seeing it more as the for-profit billion-dollar machine that they are, and learn how to adapt properly without risking their information and privacy.

Photo from XKCD under Creative Commons license.
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