If you use the Facebook app on your smartphone chances are that your telephone’s address book has been changed by Facebook. That’s right, the friends and family members on your phone’s address book have been updated to show a @facebook.com email address. It didn’t add the alternate email address and it didn’t ask your permission; it just decided that if your contact has a Facebook account then they should only use the @facebook.com email address.
CNET first reported this problem on June 30, 2012 in the article titled; “Facebook e-mail mess: Address books altered; e-mail lost” by Violet Blue. According to the article people were noticing that their friends email addresses were now @facebook.com instead of the one they were using. No, this is not the same issue regarding the email address on your Facebook profile that came up last week, but rather it is that Facebook seems to have changed the email address of some of your contacts on your smartphone.
Then our own technical support lines started to get calls that email wasn’t being delivered to the intended recipients. After checking our server logs and determining that our servers were doing what they were supposed to do we escalated our troubleshooting to other possibilities. We never imagined that the trouble would be Facebook unilaterally changing people’s email addresses.
It was the weekend and most people were using their smartphones to send emails to their contacts. Coupled together with the CNET report we asked, by any chance are you using the Facebook app on your phone. Sure enough, that’s when our customer’s realized that the contacts that weren’t getting their emails were the ones that now sporting the @facebook.com email address instead of their business or personal one. And sure enough, no one acknowledged giving permission to Facebook to alter their communications preferences.
Why is this a problem?
Other than the fact that email was not being read by the recipient because unbeknownst to them they now had a new email address, the real issue lies in the fact that Facebook made changes to your own personal contact list without your permission. Besides the obvious inconvenience of dealing with changes you did not authorize or request the problem is deeper than that.
How many emails were lost? More important did an important email with consequences to the sender or recipient get lost exasperating a pending issue? Will some people loose contact with friends and family as they react to this breach of trust by deleting the Facebook app?
Like it or not, email communications and smartphones have become a necessary and an important communications tool for business and for individuals. In some cases it could be the only means of communications between two individuals or a lifeline for someone.
And finally how dare they even assume that they have the right to make changes to your personal address book? You should be outraged.
What should you do?
At this point we don’t know how many people have been affected and whether there will be a remedy to this situation but no doubt people will want to safeguard their contact lists. And take back control of your own contact lists.
As angry as you may be about this issue, the first and only thing you should do at this point is remove the Facebook App from your smartphone. You can still access Facebook through a browser. Do not close your Facebook account. You may still be able to recover the lost email addresses as Facebook reacts to the anger of its membership.
Has this happened to everyone?
This is unclear at this point but there scattered reports of it happening to some users while others are reporting no problems at all.
UPDATE: Today, July 2, 2012 Facebook announced that it will be fixing the email fiasco their system caused on smartphones as well as returning your primary email on your profile.