Over the weekend, Facebook users may have noticed that their default email address was changed to their Facebook email address without any action on their part.
The company first announced the change was coming in April with little-to-no fanfare after first releasing the new service in 2010. Their aim is to allow users to consolidate their electronic communications in one place — Facebook. Facebook’s post-email vision of the Internet was viewed at the time as a potential Gmail killer.
“The change was noticed over the weekend by blogger Gervase Markham, who said that in making the move, the company conducted an man-in-the-middle (“MITM”) attack on him. In cryptography and computer security, a man-in-the-middle attack is a form of eavesdropping, in which the attacker relays messages being sent between the victims without their knowing about it.”
“In other words, Facebook silently inserted themselves into the path of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who want to email me,” Markham wrote.
While switching user default settings might be a way to take a crack at incumbent email service providers — Google, for example — technology blog Lifehacker made the point in 2010 that Facebook email wasn’t about email: “It’s about extending the reach of Facebook messages.”
On Monday, Facebook reiterated its intention to create consistency across the site.
“As we announced back in April, we’ve been updating addresses on Facebook to make them consistent across our site,” a Facebook representative said in a statement.
The company said that in addition to everyone receiving a Facebook email address, it was also rolling out “a new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their timelines,” the spokesperson continued.
“Ever since the launch of timeline, people have had the ability to control what posts they want to show or hide on their own timelines, and today we’re extending that to other information they post, starting with the Facebook address.”