Hulu removes Facebook Connect after exposing user data

Hulu integrated Facebook Connect into its service, but had to remove it after discovering a technical issue that exposed user data. Hulu says Facebook is not to blame.

Over the weekend, Hulu rolled out Facebook Connect integration. Almost immediately after launch, Hulu had to pull the feature as the company discovered a technical issue affecting a limited number of users. More specifically, some users weren't seeing their own Hulu account information upon login, but someone else's.

Hulu is now looking into the extent of the problem and taking steps to protect its users and ensure the issue doesn't happen again. The company has admitted that the flaw was the result of a coding and configuration error on Hulu's side. The company has denied that the issue is the result of hacking, other third party actions, or a vulnerability in Facebook Connect.

The bad news is that Hulu has confirmed approximately 50 affected users whose profile data, including email addresses, could have been accessed. The good news is that no one gained access to Hulu systems or highly sensitive user information such as passwords or credit card numbers.

In the meantime, Hulu has disabled all the connection points to Facebook Connect on Hulu, and is once again requiring all its users to login directly through the Hulu website. The company says it is also taking the precautionary measure of resetting privacy settings to the most restrictive settings for anyone who logged into their Hulu account through Facebook.

"Once we are certain that the issue has been fully addressed, we will re-launch our Facebook Connect program," a Hulu spokesperson said in a statement. "We apologize to any affected users, and we intend to do everything we can to make it right and avoid similar issues in the future."

So what exactly was Hulu trying to achieve with Facebook Connect anyway? Just like other television companies interested in Facebook integration, Hulu wanted to make TV more social:

  • Interact. Comment on a specific moment in time while watching any video on Hulu, and with one click, instantly share those remarks — and the relevant video moment from the program — on Facebook. When you comment on a Hulu video, that exact moment will appear on Facebook so your friends can jump in and react right away.
  • Personalize. Log on to Hulu—or create a new account—using your Facebook account. From there, you can interact with all of your Facebook friends. You'll log into a homepage tailored to you, where you can see your friends' favorite shows, and start conversations with anybody who follows the same shows you do.
  • Discover. With Facebook on Hulu, you can introduce your friends to shows you're rooting for, and discover new favorites with the help of your friends.

The social experience on Hulu is being funded by two of the company's partners: Coors Light and Microsoft. Interestingly, the latter is using its Bing brand to provide a free one month Hulu Plus subscription to users who make the decision to "go social" by signing up for Facebook on Hulu. Microsoft and Facebook have been long-time partners since October 2007.