Facebook Rewrote Phone Address Books (and a travel tip)

If, despite everything, you still own a smartphone and (perhaps up
until recently) had the Facebook app installed, check your address book. Turns out Facebook may have rewritten some of your contacts’ email addresses too.

This may have resulted in people not getting your emails, as they got automatically filed away in some obscure corner of that website instead of in the intented email inbox. Which, speaking as someone that used to maintain an elaborate email folder structure with filters to carefully separate out the most useful messages and file the rest, is as good as the messages being gone.

Random travel tip, by the way — if you’re spending a while in Europe (particularly Germany), buy uncut loaves of bread (preferably darker stuff). Not only is a 2€ 750g loaf enough to keep you snacking for a few days, but uncut bread tastes better longer. (And the bread here tastes amazing if all you’re used to is the North American stuff.)

Knife geeks take note: should your pocket-tool not cut it as a bread knife, go to any kitchen/home store and spend 4€ (~$6) on a Victorinox Vespermesser. (Make a sheath out of duct tape so you can carry it in a backpack.) It’s a ~10cm serrated stainless blade that is in all seriousness the sharpest knife you will ever see anywhere. Should you need to perform brain surgery, it would work well if not for the bread-knife-like shape. (They do sell equally sharp and cheap straight-edge blades that would probably do the trick.) Pick up some bandages too, if you cut yourself the cuts will be deeper than expected.

Speaking of, go by a pharmacy (“Apotheke”) and pick up some of the silver-lined bandages (“Silber-Pflaster”) they sell (only in pharmacies). The things are bloody magic. They have a silver-based lining to the pad that keeps wounds from getting infected (or ends the infection, speaking from experience), and seems to make them heal faster to boot.

Note the cut-to-size versions are a much better deal if you carry scissors.

Anyway, after that tangent, on to the link…


‘Facebook has admitted its mobile app altered phones’ contacts books to use @facebook.com addresses.

The hijack stems from a flaw in the website’s design and the decision to provide every user with an @facebook.com handle that forwards to their Facebook message inbox. These addresses are now shown on the site’s Timeline to encourage their use.

A bug in the Facebook contacts API caused the mobile client to download and save the most recently added email address, rather than the account default, when synchronising a user’s friends list and the phone’s contact book. Because the “most recent” was the Facebook address, punters’ contacts were rewritten and their email rerouted as a result.

Reports of missing messages were, as predicted, down to mails from non-friends being filed away in the “Other” mailbox on the social network. That’s a feature which must surely annoy anyone using Facebook groups (messages from other group members get similarly tucked away) but it’s really a result of one not having enough mates.

Despite overwriting personal address books and hiding received emails, Facebook is anything but contrite. The official statement from the company explains that “for people on certain devices, a bug meant that the device was pulling the last email address added to the account rather than the primary email address” without any obvious admission of whose bug that was.

It was Facebook’s bug.

Team Zuck says it will have a fix in place first thing on Thursday, after which contact lists will automatically return to using the default email address – assuming the affected users still have the Facebook app installed and set up to synchronise.”


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