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

by Linda Olson June 8, 2018, 3:06
Facebook flaw changed millions of users’ posts from private to public

"We'd like to apologise for this mistake", said Erin Egan, Facebook's head of privacy. Facebook has fixed the privacy settings for posts during that time, and will let users review any affected content to make sure the audience is what they wanted, she said.

The news follows a recent furor over Facebook's sharing of user data with device makers, including China's Huawei. 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.

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".

Jonathan Mayer, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University, said on Twitter that this latest privacy gaffe "looks like a viable Federal Trade Commission/state attorney general deception case".

For a few days last month, a software bug caused 14 million Facebook users' default setting for sharing content to be "public", meaning that some of their posts meant to be kept private were accessible to anyone on the internet, the company said Thursday.

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With all the other issues swirling after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, this bug shows that Facebook's privacy issues span both poorly thought-out policies and technical oversights. But while the bug was active, from 18 May to 27 May, the setting was automatically changed to public.

Facebook, which said it discovered the bug, has not yet shared details about who may have accessed the exposed data, or how that access may have occurred.

Affected Facebook users will get a notification on the app or website starting Thursday. That default was changed to public for the 14 million users, but if affected users noticed, they could have manually switched the setting themselves.

During the period, any post an affected user published on Facebook would have automatically been posted publicly.

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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