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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images

Facebook confirmed for the first time Friday that hackers who stole the keys to millions of accounts used some of them to access a wide variety of personal information about users.

Why it matters: The breach is under investigation in Ireland, and there have been calls for a similar investigation in the United States. It affected 30 million people — though that's a lower number than Facebook initially believed.

Details:

  • Hackers accessed names and listed contact information for 14 million people as well "as other details people had on their profiles," Facebook's Guy Rosen wrote in a blog post.
  • "This included username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches," he said.
  • He said that for an additional 15 million people, the hackers accused just their name and listed content information.
  • One million people were implicated in the hack, but saw no data accessed.
  • "Based on our investigation, the attackers did not post anything on peoples’ profiles," Rosen told reporters Friday.

But the 30 million people who saw their account keys stolen was a lower number than the 50 million initially announced, Rosen said. International data privacy laws require firms to quickly report breaches, well before investigations are complete — potentially forcing firms to overestimate damage.

The hackers started with a core group of accounts and used an automated technique to steal access tokens from 400,000 of those accounts' friends.

  • In the process, they were sent the information those 400,000 people would see when looking at their profiles — including posts, the names of groups they were in, and the names on recent messenger conversations (though the messages were not normally available).
  • But if a user was a page administrator, messages they received would be visible.
  • The hackers used some of those 400,000 accounts to move to the 30 million accounts now being reported.

Concerned Facebook users can see if they were affected by visiting the service's help center.

What's next: Authorities in the United States and abroad, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, continue to look into the breach.

  • "As we look for other ways the people behind this attack used Facebook, as well as the possibility of smaller-scale attacks, we’ll continue to cooperate with the FBI, the US Federal Trade Commission, Irish Data Protection Commission, and other authorities," Rosen said.

This post has been updated with details from a telephone briefing by Rosen and more information from the blog post.

Go deeper

Updated 14 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments, including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, outside a courthouse in Boston in 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

7 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.