Updated 3:15 PM PST with comment from Facebook.
It’s bad enough when Facebook changes your profile settings without your permission. But after the social network’s latest infrastructure tweak, some Facebook users are reporting that their smartphones’ contacts settings are also being affected.
Last week, Facebook quietly changed the default email addresses on user profile pages to @facebook.com addresses, which were first provided as a service to users in 2010. This silent switch caused a number of problems for people who found that emails sent to them were suddenly “missing.” In essence, some incoming emails were being dropped in an “Other” folder that no one pays attention to.
Facebook responded to the confusion with an emailed statement to ReadWriteWeb:
“By default, messages from friends or friends of friends go into your Inbox. Everything else goes to your Other folder,” Facebook spokesperson Meredith Chin stated in an email. “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.”
But now it looks like Facebook’s email overhaul is having a dire ripple effect for some smartphone users. For people who’ve integrated Facebook into their smartphone contact lists, it seems that the Facebook app has run amok, editing and sometimes adding contact information for Facebook friends.
An iOS 6 beta user named Daniel told Gizmodo, “Since Facebook changed the email addresses on contacts, I’ve actually lost every single one of my email addresses including those for work.” Another iOS 6 user reported the same issuing, lamenting “Crap thing changed the primary email address of the contacts in my iPhone iOS 6.” We take “crap thing” to mean “Facebook.” iOS 6 features deep Facebook integration within the OS, much like how Twitter became an integral part of the operating system with iOS 5.
A Hacker News reader also lamented about a similar problem on his mother’s Droid Razr: “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.”
At Gadget Lab, we tested how Facebook’s changes affect the iOS 6 beta, and it seems the overhaul simply adds @facebook.com email addresses as the primary email addresses for contacts — not deleting other email contacts, but inserting Facebook as the default option. This isn’t the end of the world, but still, it’s a potentially irritating discovery.
Have you experienced any issues with Facebook adding or editing contact information on your mobile device? Sound off in the comments below, or shoot us an email.
Update: Facebook attributes what some users were experiencing to a bug with contact synchronization, which is performed through an API. “For most devices, we’ve verified that the API is working correctly and pulling the primary email address associated with the users’ Facebook account,” a Facebook spokesperson told Wired via email. “However, 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, resulting in @facebook.com addresses being pulled. We are in the process of fixing this issue and it will be resolved soon. After that, those specific devices should pull the correct addresses.”