Researchers find 540 million Facebook user records on exposed servers

Security researchers have found hundreds of millions of Facebook user records sitting on an inadvertently public storage server.

The two batches of user records were collected and exposed from two third-party companies, according to researchers at security firm UpGuard, who found the data.

In the researchers’ write-up, Mexico-based digital media company Cultura Colectiva left more than 540 million records — including comments, likes, reactions, account names and more — stored on the Amazon S3 storage server without a password, allowing anyone to access the data. Another backup file by defunct California-based app maker At The Pool contained even more sensitive data, including scraped information on over 22,000 users, including each account user’s friends lists, interests, photos, group memberships, and check-ins.

According to UpGuard, neither company responded to requests to have the data removed. Facebook contacted Amazon to pull the data offline, a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.

“Facebook’s policies prohibit storing Facebook information in a public database,” said the spokesperson. Facebook said there is no evidence yet to show the data has been misused but that it was investigating.

It’s the latest data lapse involving the social media giant since the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, which saw more than 87 million Facebook user records scraped without consent by the U.K.-based political data firm. The company was accused of using the data to help build profiles on voters in an effort to help the presidential campaigns for Ted Cruz and later Donald Trump.

UpGuard previously found a batch of scraped Facebook involving 48 million records from Localblox in 2018. The company scrapes publicly available data on social media profiles.

Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at UpGuard, told TechCrunch: “These finds continue to highlight the problems which plague companies that depend on mass data collection.”

“Storing personal information collected from end users is a liability,” said Vickery. “The more you have, the greater that liability becomes.”

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