Fixing the Facebook e-mail foul-up

Fixing the Facebook e-mail foul-up

Summary: You may not have noticed it, but Facebook switched your default e-mail address to your Facebook e-mail address over the weekend. What? You didn't know you had a Facebook address? Well you do now!


What did you do with my e-mail address Facebook!

What did you do with my e-mail address Facebook!

Come on Facebook! Isn't it enough that you make securing my Facebook account a game that's even more annoying than the social games you're constantly pushing on me? Did you really have to silently change my default e-mail address—along with your other 900-million plus members—to my never, ever used address without any warning over the weekend?

I'm willing to bet that most of Facebook's 900+ million members didn't even know they had a e-mail address. Today, I suspect most of them still don't know that, but over the weekend Facebook changed each and everyone's default e-mail address on their Facebook profiles to their almost certainly never-ever used Facebook address.

Blogger Gervase Markham spotted the change this weekend. Markham wrote, “I happened to visit my Facebook profile, and noticed that they had changed the displayed email address to gerv.markham[at]! The old one was still in the database, but it had been hidden. Email to [that address] goes to my Facebook inbox, and I don't get a notification email 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!”

In short, if someone tires to send you e-mail using your Facebook address it goes into the black hole of Facebook e-mail. Markham was not amused.

He wrote, “Facebook silently inserted themselves into the path of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who want to email me. In other contexts, this is known as a Man In The Middle (MITM) attack. What on earth do they think they are playing at?”

Good question. Facebook claims that they told everyone about this change in an April. That announcement, about how e-mail addresses would be handled in Facebook timeline doesn't say that it's going to hide the address you've chosen to use. To me, this is just example of how little Facebook cares about its users.

Fortunately, changing your e-mail back isn't that hard. Just go to your profile-- click "Update info." Then, scroll down to "Contact Info,” which will be on the right-hand side, and click "Edit." You can then add or pick which e-mail address you want to show on your Timeline, or, for that matter if you want to show any e-mail address on Facebook. That done, simply click save and your friends will now see your preferred e-mail address.

Considering how “nice” Facebook is about changing how it handles your information you may want to reconsider keeping any information on it. Me? I still use Facebook because a lot of my old friends and family are on it, but Google+ is my social network of choice. They don't play games with my information and privacy. Facebook is always jerking me around and I'm getting sick and tired of it.

Related Stories:

How stupid do you have to be to think you’ll have privacy on Facebook?

The Definitive Facebook Lockdown Guide

How to delete every Facebook wall post, wipe your Timeline

Facebook reveals guide for dealing with spam, explicit content reports

Facebook could see ad revenue hit in 'Sponsored Stories' lawsuit

Topics: Collaboration, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Mine was not changed

    But I have never set a user name. Which likely means I don't have a Facebook email address.
    • Based on Timeline - Looks Like

      If you do not have Timeline setup and active it appears FB did not change your settings. I was the only one in my house who does not have it set and the only one who was not affected.
      • I've got timeline and mine hasn't been changed.

        I've got timeline (I wish I never bloody activated it though!) and mine hasn't been changed.

        Could this be a USA only change? I live in The UK.
      • nothing to do w/Timeline

        I (fortunately) am not on Timeline yet but my email address got changed silently to the address I didn't know I had.

        From other stories I've read, FB is still in the process of rolling out the email address change.
  • Facebook's Customers and its Users

    Why do people think Facebook is exists to keep users happy? Facebook, both pre and post IPO, exists to keep its customers happy. Those customers are the advertisers that are paying Facebook to deliver eyeballs to their ads. Facebook does not exist to provide services to users, it exists to provide viewers for advertisers.
    • Re

      That,s a really stupid statement. Yes FB must try to keep its customer happy or they change social networks like they did MySpace or leave Yahoo because of poor customer support IF you could even find it.
      • What you are witnessing is the economic understanding

        of your typical OWS protester. Basically someone who thinks that money comes out of nowhere (Obama's stash) and that companies actually profit by alienating their revenue base (which is probably a corollary of thinking that money comes out of nowhere and is stolen by corporations from the rightful owners of it, the people).
      • Users vs. customers

        We (the general public) are [b]users[/b] of Facebook's free "social" services.

        The [b]customers[/b], however, are the companies that pay for the privelage of access to our data for advertising purposes... which is how Facebook makes the money it needs to pay its electric & utility bills, pay its employees' wages, etc.

        While they have to attempt somewhat to placate the users, that's only so that their service stays relevant enough for their customers to pony up the advertising money Facebook depends on. Same thing with Google: if people didn't use Google Search results, advertisers wouldn't pay for the ads Google shows.
  • This

    is a perfect example of why I don't have facebook. What's sad is how typical this is.
  • Mine hasn't been changed

    I have set a Facebook username and mine wasn't changed either. My default e-mail address is still my non-Facebook e-mail address and it's still hidden.

    My Facebook e-mail is still secondary and still shown to my friends (they can message me anyway, I see no harm them being able to e-mail to it too).

    I've never used it though because all my Facebook messaging communication is done at or the Android Facebook Messaging app.

    p.s - Still only about 3 of my friends are on Google+ (and none are active). Way to go Google, you create an arguably better service to Facebook but that means squat if no one uses it.
  • They should have notified the users.

    Seems the new email address would be used just to login to the FB account and not for any other purpose. FB should have notified the users well in advance before changing the email addresses, but this is something FB has never done before.

    - Sara
  • Issue may not be as bad as you think.

    To me, at least, the issue depends on a) how you utilize Facebook, and b) what your notification settings are.

    By that, I mean that if you depend on an email notification letting you know that someone commented on your profile, posted a potentially interesting tidbit, or even to remind you that one of your "friends" has an upcoming birthday/other life event, then yes, this is a somewhat big deal. The easiest fix, of course, is for Facebook to say, "We're displaying your email as _yourname_(at), but we'll actually redirect it to the email you have listed on your profile". To me, that would actually be an [b]improvement[/b] in personal information security, since you can set your privacy settings to prevent people from seeing the email address you use. Kind of like how Craigslist notifications get sent to an internal email address & then get directed to your profile address, so that unless you expressly post your email no one will actually see it.

    On the other hand... if you don't have email notifications set up for activity on your Facebook account, or (even better) if you never have to worry about catching up on email notifications because your constantly checking your profile for updates & messages, then whether or not your email shows is immaterial. Especially since those "messages" you see on Facebook aren't really emails anyway, just private inter-profile messages.

    Again, though, for me personally it's not a problem. Even though I may go a day or 2 without checking my Facebook profile, and even though I usually rely more on the email updates to let me know when something's going on, the people that I consider important enough to know my email address [b]already know it[/b}: family & close [u]real-life[/u] friends. Not only could I care less if other people have my email, I would prefer that random strangers not be able to see my regular email address.