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Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Facebook crossed into new territory on Friday as it publicly disclosed a massive security breach that gave away the keys to as many as 50 million Facebook user accounts — just months after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said such an event had never occurred on its platform.

Why it matters: The Cambridge Analytica scandal was about gaming Facebook’s systems to scrape user data. This is something different: what looks like the biggest intrusion taking advantage of flaws in Facebook’s code since the social network was created on Harvard’s campus in 2004.

Flashback: At a Senate hearing earlier this year, Sen. Cory Gardner asked Zuckerberg if Facebook had ever been hacked.

Gardner: "Have those hacks ever accessed user data?"
Zuckerberg: "I don't believe so."

That changed midday Friday, when Facebook staffers disclosed in a hastily-assembled call with reporters that bugs had allowed hackers to obtain "access tokens" — which would let them effectively take over an account — for 50 million accounts.

  • Another 40 million users saw their accounts flagged because they had been subject to an internal lookup used in the hack.
  • Facebook says it doesn't know yet whether or how the access tokens were used, but if they were used, they provided full access to the account and its data.
  • The bugs have been in place since July 2017, and Facebook says it won't know more about the timing of the activity until it completes an internal investigation.

It became clear later on Friday that the breach would have an impact beyond Facebook. On a second press call, the company revealed that if a user's account was compromised, the same access would be available to any other services a user accessed by logging in with Facebook.

  • A wide variety of popular apps — including Tinder and Spotify — allow users to log in with a Facebook account.
  • Facebook said it had reached out to major third-party apps that let users log in with Facebook accounts about the breach.

The other coast: Policymakers called for investigations into the breach.

  • “I’m alarmed by today’s news of another breach," said Democratic Federal Trade Commission member Rohit Chopra. "The cost of inaction is growing and we need answers.”
  • The agency, which is controlled by a Republican majority, declined to comment.
  • Democratic lawmakers also called for some kind of investigation.

The bottom line: Millions of Facebook users are learning that someone, for an undetermined amount of time, was able to see everything they see when they log into Facebook, and potentially other services, too. That's uncharted ground for the social network.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
4 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Japan vows deeper emissions cuts ahead of White House summit

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan on Thursday said it will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, per the AP and other outlets.

Why it matters: The country is the world's fifth-largest largest carbon dioxide emitter and a major consumer of coal, oil and natural gas.

Biden pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% by 2030

U.S. President Joe Biden seen in the Oval Office on April 15. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

The Biden administration is moving to address global warming by setting a new, economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Why it matters: The new, non-binding target is about twice as ambitious as the previous U.S. target of a 26% to 28% cut by 2025, which was set during the Obama administration. White House officials described the goal as ambitious but achievable during a call with reporters Tuesday night.

Exclusive: Chauvin trial prosecution worked with strategic communications firm

People gather at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to celebrate the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial on April 20, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

For most of the past year, a strategic communications firm with deep Washington ties has played an integral role for the prosecution in the State of Minnesota v. Derek Chauvin — operating without pay and so under-the-radar that most of its own staff had no idea.

The big picture: Finsbury Glover Hering — formerly known as the Glover Park Group — has been conducting media monitoring and analysis as part of legal team special prosecutor Neal Katyal's vision for a three-pronged "modern appeal/trial strategy."

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