Facebook, already facing scrutiny over how it handles the private information of its users, said on Friday that an attack on its computer network had exposed the personal information of nearly 50 million users.
The breach, which was discovered this week, was the largest in the company’s 14-year history. The attackers exploited a feature in Facebook’s code to gain access to user accounts and potentially take control of them.
The news could not have come at a worse time for Facebook. It has been buffeted over the last year by scandal, from revelations that a British analytics firm got access to the private information of up to 87 million users to worries that disinformation on Facebook has affected elections and even led to deaths in several countries.
Senior executives have testified several times this year in congressional hearings where some lawmakers suggested that the government will need to step in if the social network is unable to get tighter control of its service. On Friday, regulators and lawmakers quickly seized on the breach to renew calls for more oversight.