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Facebook routes email to wrong users

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Saturday February 27, 2010 )

Imagine intending to send an email to someone and it winds up going to someone different. Misdirected communications have brought down many a celebrity, politician and company.

I’ve had this happen a few times through errors of my own doing; i.e. sending an email to the wrong address. While the contents of the emails didn’t give away any company secrets, it was still incredibly embarrassing. From time to time I have nightmares about a re-occurrence.

But lets say that you send an email to the correct address or user and it still winds up in the hands of a total stranger.

It seems this happened on Facebook recently. According to this WSJ article, one user reported receiving over 100 emails in the span of an hour and a half not addressed to him.

Facebook Inc. says a glitch during an update caused some email messages to be sent to the wrong recipients for “a short time” earlier this week. How many exactly? A “small number” says the company. However, when you have 300 million users, how many is that? 1, 10, a hundred, a thousand? .. more? Anyone who sent an email during that window? Facebook is still investigating that aspect.

This post isn’t a Facebook witch hunt by any means. Stuff happens and I’m sure Facebook are pretty darned embarrassed about what occurred as these types of incidents can easily undermine confidence in their service. I guess someone, or multiple someones, got their butts firmly kicked for this and as a result, changes will be made to prevent a re-occurrence.

The incident is a reminder that nothing on the Internet is truly private. Every email, every IM, every PM could be intercepted or rerouted by all manner of nefarious activities or provider goofs.

For me, it serves as a special reminder of past incidents where the problem was PEBCAK related (Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard).. and to keep remembering to check those “to:” addresses before hitting send and receive :). I could also say it reminds me to keep communications professional, but that would be a bit of a lie. The contents of some of my emails could make a sailor blush.


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