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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

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.

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