Facebook flaw changed millions of users’ posts from private to public

08 June 2018, 02:58 | Myrtle Hill

A Facebook booth is seen at the China International Big Data Industry Expo in Guiyang Guizhou province China

A Facebook booth is seen at the China International Big Data Industry Expo in Guiyang Guizhou province China

Facebook said the privacy bug took place from May 18 to May 27 and didn't affect any posts published before that time period. The company said on Thursday the bug automatically suggested that users make new posts public, even if they had previously restricted to "friends only" or another private setting.

"We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts", Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in a statement. To be clear, this bug did not impact anything people had posted before - and they could still choose their audience just as they always have.

For a period of four days in May, about 14 million Facebook users around the world had their default sharing setting for all new posts set to public, the company revealed Thursday.

Posts are public by default for new accounts, but every Facebook user can limit who sees each post by using what the company calls an "audience selector".

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The social network is working to rehabilitate its relationship with users after the Cambridge Analytica controversy, which drew renewed attention to how much data the company collects. That means if an eagle-eyed user didn't catch the bug, they likely shared some status updates publicly on Facebook that they meant to share only with friends. But Facebook accidentally set "public" as the default for posts, too.

For those who are affected, Facebook will be displaying privacy notifications that appear when a user logs into Facebook via the web or mobile app. For a bug to break that system for millions of users is yet another major problem Facebook is going to have to deal with.

For example, the site made it easier for users to download all the data Facebook has on them, as well as gave them greater control over what sites the company is able to share their personal information with, such as advertisers and research firms.



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