PHOENIX -- In what some might call a play for digital domination, Facebook has hijacked the contact information its users chose to display on their Timelines, replacing their default email addresses with Facebook.com email addresses.
While it's not clear when Facebook pushed out the change, it reportedly has been in the works for several weeks. Bloggers started noticing the Facebook.com addresses over the weekend.
"In other words, Facebook silently inserted themselves into the path of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who want to email me. In other contexts, this is known as a Man In The Middle (MITM) attack. What on earth do they think they are playing at?" Gervase Markham, reportedly the first to point out the new Facebook.com default addresses, wrote on his blog Hacking for Christ. That was Saturday.
As news of the forced change spread, complaints quickly followed. "We basically defaulted to show your Facebook address as we rolled this out, just to keep it consistent for everyone," Meredith Chin, Facebook's manager of product communications, told CNN Money's Julianne Pepitone. The change has not propagated to all 900 million user accounts yet, but according to Chin, it will in time.
It's important to note that the email change does not affect your login information in any way. It's just the email address that is shown in the "Contact Info" section on your "About" page.
If you have a "vanity URL" for Facebook -- you set up a username so that your Facebook page is facebook.com/username -- that username your email address. There's also a number Facebook has assigned to each account, including those that have public usernames. That number is an email address, as well -- 12345@Facebook.com.
This isn't a relay service that forwards messages to your regular email -- the one that you use to sign in to Facebook. Messages sent to Facebook.com addresses go to the Facebook Messages in-box.
Facebook is notorious for making such changes, much to the dismay of many users. Some still have not forgiven Facebook for Timeline. Fortunately, it's very easy to change the contact information that appears on your Timeline. It takes just a few seconds.
1. Click the "About" link on your profile page. Your Contact Info will be in the second column, fourth box down.
2. Click the Edit button at the top right corner of the Contact Info box. Emails are at the top of window that will open. (See image.)
3. On the right-hand side of that window, there's a little drop-down menu that lets you control which addresses are shown on your Timeline. Just switch your Facebook.com to be "hidden from Timeline" and make your regular email address "shown on Timeline."
4. Click the Save button at the bottom of the window when you're happy.
While some see the move as an attempt by Facebook to force its email service on users, the newly public company naturally disagrees.
Facebook's email service, which utilizes Messages to send and receive emails, isn't new. Initially called a "Gmail killer" when it was first launched in 2010, it never really took off.