Bug made private posts of 14mn users public, admits Facebook
In yet another privacy goof-up, Facebook has admitted that 14 million users were affected by a bug in May that automatically suggested posting publicly when the users were writing posts meant only for friends. The bug made sure that the posts could be viewed by anyone, including people not logged on to Facebook. Reports remain unclear about the country in which the users were affected the most.
The bug, according to Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, occurred as the Facebook developers were building a new way to share featured items on users’ profile, like a photo. “Since these featured items are public, the suggested audience for all new posts, and not just these items , was set to public. “The problem has been fixed, and for anyone affected, we changed the audience back to what they had been using before,” Egan said in a blog post late Thursday.
The revelation came after a New York Times report exposed how the social network allowed about 60 device makers, including Chinese smartphone players, to access personal information of users and their friends. Facebook admitted sharing users’ data with Chinese company Huawei, that is facing the heat in the US over data privacy concerns, along with three other China-based smartphone makers Lenovo, OPPO and TCL. The latest bug affected the audience selector that lets users decide who gets to see the post. On Thursday, “we have started letting the 14 million people affected know and asking them to review any posts they made during that time. 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,” Egan said.
It took Facebook developers five days to fix the bug. “If you posted publicly (during the period May 18 to 27), you’ll see a notification from Facebook when you log in that leads to a page with more information, including a review of posts during this period,” said Egan. Every time you share something on Facebook, it shows you an audience selector so users can decide who gets to see the post. For example, if you choose to share a photo with friends only, your audience selector will automatically suggest you share to friends next time you start a post. “We’ve heard loud and clear that we need to be more transparent about how we build our products and how those products use your data including when things go wrong,” Egan said.
Facebook is already under intense scrutiny for misuse of millions of its users’ data after the Cambridge Analytical data leak scandal became public.