The Facebook Email Fiasco Might Be Worse Than We Thought (Updated)

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Remember when Facebook changed all of our default email accounts to their own, unused system, without informing any of us? That was fun! But it looks like the problem could be much wider and more damaging than it first seemed.

Big update: Facebook is rolling out a fix tomorrow.

CNET reports a multitude of user complaints after the big obnoxious switch-over, citing claims that Facebook is "changing their address books while intercepting and losing unknown amounts of e-mail." Some Facebookers are seeing messages (inadvertently) sent to their @facebook accounts vanishing into nothing, while others have noticed every email address in their phone overwritten by Facebook:

This morning my mother was complaining that many of the email addresses in her Droid Razr contacts had been replaced with Facebook ones. It would seem the Facebook app had been populating her address book with emails and contact photos, and decided to migrate all her Facebook-using contacts over to this convenient new system. That seems like a much greater controversy to me than Facebook hiding people's email addresses.


Those things both suck, and are a bigger attention-grab than merely changing a default inbox. Ideally, your smartphone's Facebook app would add information to an existing contact, not hijack it. And it's much harder to reverse, too—if Facebook wiped out all of your friends' email addresses, tracking them down and entering them all over again would be a serious travail. There's an enormous difference between having an annoying email account you don't want put on your Facebook profile, and having that annoying email address permanently erase other email addresses.


Personally, I've noticed some Facebook strangeness on my iPhone's contact list. For many of my friends (there doesn't seem to be a pattern), there's now a second, duplicate contact, with nothing but Facebook information (usually just their Facebook email address). These contacts cannot be deleted. This is annoying in that there are now doubles for a lot of people I talk to, but when I try dialing their number, I get the bizarre caller ID text above. Whether this is an iOS 6 Facebook integration quirk quirk, a Facebook screwup, or some sort of screwup collaboration between Apple and Facebook remains to be seen. We've reached out to FB for a comment on all this, and will let you know if Emailgate is really as bad as it looks. In the meantime, the only defense you've got is preventive—deleting Facebook from your phone and turning off FB integration is probably the only way to avoid this fate. [CNET]

Update: Giz reader Daniel's problem suggets iOS 6 is making Facebook's email blitz even worse:

I recently updated my iPhone to iOS 6 beta, which has Facebook integration. Since Facebook changed the email addresses on contacts, I've actually lost every single one of my email addresses including those for work. Emails to my boss have gone unanswered as they've been going to his Facebook! Driven me insane and absolutely horrid move for Facebook. Very much regretting wishing for this whole Facebook integration thing now!


Granted, it's still beta software.

Update 2: You guys down in the discussion section seem to be seeing this email-zapping on your phones, too. Keep chiming in!


Update 3: Facebook knows this is a problem. A company rep told ReadWriteWeb the following today:

"Regarding the phone syncing issue, I'm having the engineers look into it and will get back to you as soon as I can with more details," Chin said in an email early Monday morning."


Update: Facebook replied to us directly with the same statement it's been giving everyone else:

Regarding the "email loss" this may actually just be confusion around the Messages Inbox:
By default, messages from friends or friends of friends go into your Inbox. Everything else goes to your Other folder. (If you click on Messages in your left hand navigation menu, you'll see below it an Other folder that drops down.) That is likely where the messages are being sent from other people's emails. Even if that person is friends with them on Facebook, if the friend doesn't have that email on their Facebook account, the message could end up in the Other folder.

Regarding the phone syncing issue, engineers are looking into it and we'll get back to you as soon as possible with more details.