Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday it may have "unintentionally uploaded" email contacts of 1.5 million new users since May 2016, in what seems to be the latest privacy-related issue faced by the social media company.
In March, Facebook had stopped offering email password verification as an option for people who signed up for the first time, the company said. There were cases in which email contacts of people were uploaded to Facebook when they created their account, the company said.
"We estimate that up to 1.5 million people's email contacts may have been uploaded. These contacts were not shared with anyone, and we are deleting them," Facebook told Reuters, adding that users whose contacts were imported will be notified.
The underlying glitch has been fixed, according to the company statement.
Business Insider had earlier reported that the social media company harvested email contacts of the users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts.
When an email password was entered, a message popped up saying it was "importing" contacts without asking for permission first, the report said.
Facebook said on Wednesday it may have "unintentionally uploaded" email contacts of 1.5 million new users since May 2016. (Photo: CGTN)
Facebook has been hit by a number of privacy-related issues recently, including a glitch that exposed passwords of millions of users stored in readable format within its internal systems to its employees, affecting millions more Instagram users.
The social media giant said in late March that it had inadvertently stored passwords in plain text, making it possible for its thousands of employees to search them. It said the passwords were stored on internal company servers, where no outsiders could access them.
Facebook said in a blog post on Thursday that it now estimates that "millions" of Instagram users were affected by the lapse, instead of the "tens of thousands" it had originally reported. It had also said in March that the issue affected "hundreds of millions" of Facebook Lite users and millions of Facebook users. Facebook Lite is designed for people with older phones or slow Internet connections.
Last year, the company came under fire following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, obtained personal data of millions of people's Facebook profiles without their consent.
The company has also been facing criticism from lawmakers across the world for what has been seen by some as tricking people into giving personal data to Facebook and for the presence of hate speech and data portability on the platform.
Separately, Facebook was asked to ensure its social media platform is not abused for political purposes or to spread misinformation during elections.