Facebook admitted on Wednesday that it was likely that most of its 2 billion users have had their public profiles scraped by external companies without the users' explicit permission, a dramatic increase from the previously disclosed numbers last year which were near 270,000, according to The Washington Post.
The data privacy controversy does not seem to be fading for the social media giant as investigations are ongoing in the United States and Europe and Facebook's stock price has been tumbling.
The acknowledgment was part of a broader admission from Facebook about which levels of user data have been used by others, ranging from malicious actors to ordinary app developers.
"We’re an idealistic and optimistic company, and for the first decade, we were really focused on all the good that connecting people brings," Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on a call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. "But it’s clear now that we didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse and thinking about how people could use these tools for harm as well."
Facebook for the first time admitted to the scope of the improper data collection that was amassed by Cambridge Analytica, the political data consultants that were hired by the 2016 Trump campaign and a number of other Republican candidates in the last two federal election cycles.
The group was able to access Facebook information for up to 87 million users, 71 million of whom are Americans, which had their data used to construct "psychographic" profiles that included targeted messaging to shape voter behavior.
Facebook acknowledged that the issue of third-party collection was far wider than previously stated and that the company's widespread user base likely affected most of the developed world.
“Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped,”the company wrote in its blog post.
Most malicious actors gathered public profile information, including names, email addresses, and phone numbers by using a "search and account recovery" function, which Facebook said it has now disabled.
The data used by Cambridge Analytica was far more extensive than the basic data and included the names, home towns, work and education histories, religious affiliations, and "likes" of other users, posts, and more.
Other users affected were in countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, U.K., Canada, and Mexico.
The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie tweeted that the actual number of profiles affected by the company, "Could be more tbh," which is an abbreviation for "to be honest."
Cambridge Analytica responded to Facebook's press release on Wednesday to claim that it licensed data on 30 million users.
Facebook already banned the data consultancy from its platform last month over obtaining the data under false pretenses.
Facebook's admission that the data scandal has likely affected about one out of every four Americans after many were outraged at the flippancy of the social media giant about the handling of the information of its users.

Facebook promised that it is planning a major shift in its relationship with third-party app developers and will now have "strict requirements" for developers to access its platform.
Many legislators in the U.S. responded positively to the press release as they prepare for Facebook CEO Zuckerberg to testify in a number of hearings next week.
“I’m deeply concerned that Facebook only addresses concerns on its platform when it becomes a public crisis, and that is simply not the way you run a company that is used by over 2 billion people,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) said. “We need to know how they are going to fix this problem next week at our hearing.”
"The more we learn, the clearer it is that this was an avalanche of privacy violations that strike at the core of one of our most precious American values – the right to privacy," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee.
-WN.com, Maureen Foody