Facebook e-mail mess: Address books altered; e-mail lost

Facebook's new unified e-mail and its implementation is causing unwanted changes to users' address books; worse, the changes have gone unnoticed by users and vital communication is being lost.

An alarming number of people are reporting that the new e-mail address Facebook forced on users this week is changing their address books while intercepting and losing unknown amounts of e-mail.

Facebook users say contacts' e-mail addresses on phones and personal devices have been altered without their consent -- and their e-mail communication is being redirected elsewhere, and lost.

One very angry user is Adobe employee Rachel Luxemburg.

On her personal blog she writes,

Today, a co-worker discovered that his contact info for me had been silently updated to overwrite my work e-mail address with my Facebook e-mail address. He discovered this only after sending work e-mails to the wrong address.

And even worse, the e-mails are not actually in my Facebook messages. I checked.

They've vanished into the ether.

For all I know, I could be missing a lot more e-mails from friends, colleagues, or family members, and never even know it.

As Luxemburg explains, this disaster is happening despite the fact that, like many others, she rushed to replace the @Facebook e-mail with their correct e-mail address once they'd found out about Facebook's change.

When Facebook forced its hundreds of millions of users into an @facebook account, commenters across the Internet talked about alterations that had begun in their contacts and address books outside Facebook -- valid e-mail addresses were being changed for @Facebook without people's awareness or consent on their phones and computers.

On Hacker News:

This morning my mother was complaining that many of the e-mail addresses in her Droid Razr contacts had been replaced with Facebook ones.

It would seem the Facebook app had been populating her address book with e-mails and contact photos, and decided to migrate all her Facebook-using contacts over to this convenient new system.

On Slashdot:

I sync my phone with Facebook for many of my contacts. Now I have an address book full of bogus e-mail addresses where they were correct before.

It has now been revealed that automatic altering of users' contacts without notification was, in fact, disturbingly actually built into Apple's new iOS 6 Facebook integration: Facebook for iOS will change address books without any warning.

On HN:

Crap thing changed the primary e-mail address of the contacts in my iPhone iOS 6.

In comments earlier this week about Facebook's e-mail launch disaster, Redditor homolconic had warned:

This is a big deal because everyone who has a mobile device or other software that synchronizes their address book with their FB contacts is in danger of blowing away the perfectly good e-mail address they had for you and replacing it with your FB e-mail address.

Blogger Gervase Markham notes that:

[E-mail sent to the @Facebook address] goes to my Facebook in-box, and I don't get a notification e-mail to say it's there. Which is, IMO, even worse -- they don't just pass it through their servers on the way to where it would have gone, they keep it, and fail to send me a copy!

We now also see that the interception of people's e-mail communication with Facebook's new change is deeply problematic and potentially grave.

We've reached out to Facebook for comment and have no response at this time; we'll update this post should new information from Facebook come in.

This is bad news for users that have expectations around e-mail communication by changing their e-mail addresses, intercepting and redirecting their communication elsewhere.

If you have any software or apps that sync your contacts or address books with Facebook (think home computer, devices, phones, iOS 6) check your settings. Now.

Updated 7/1 at 9:40 p.m. PT with Facebook comment blaming user "confusion" for the issue. "By default, messages from friends or friends of friends go into your Inbox," a spokesperson told CNET. "Everything else goes to your Other folder. (If you click on Messages in your left hand navigation menu, you'll see below it an Other folder that drops down.) That is likely where the messages are being sent from other people's emails. Even if that person is friends with them on Facebook, if the friend doesn't have that email on their Facebook account, the message could end up in the Other folder."

About the author

Violet Blue is a Forbes Web Celeb, CBSi/ZDNet blogger and columnist, a high-profile tech personality and one of Wired's Faces of Innovation. She is an expert in the field of sex and technology, a sex-positive mainstream media pundit (MacLife, CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show) and has been interviewed, quoted and featured in outlets ranging from ABC News to the Wall Street Journal. A feature writer and columnist since 1998, Violet has authored and edited many award-winning, best selling books in six translations; a book sample can be found on Oprah.com. She was a notorious sex columnist for Hearst's San Francisco Chronicle, and Forbes calls her "omnipresent on the web." She headlines at global conferences including ETech, LeWeb, SXSW: Interactive and two Google Tech Talks at Google, Inc. and received a standing ovation at Seattle's Gnomedex. The London Times named Blue "one of the 40 bloggers who really count." She is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET.

 

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