Facebook Bug Changed Privacy Settings of Up to 14 Million Users

Kelley Robertson
June 8, 2018

Facebook Inc. had a software bug for 10 days in May that set the audience for people's posts to "public", even if they had meant to share them just with friends, or a smaller audience. So many users that keep posts set to private would have had no idea about the issue or may have not even thought to check the status. The social media giant says it stopped the error on May 22, but it was not able to change all the posts back to their original privacy restrictions until May 27.

"We'd like to apologise for this mistake", said Erin Egan, Facebook's head of privacy. In the meantime, it has reverted the audience for any affected posts to whatever setting the user had selected previously.

Affected Facebook users will soon get a notice on the app and website Thursday and receive a link to all of their posts during the four days when the bug was active, according to CNN, which first broke the news.

Facebook is embroiled in a snafu that exposed users' private postings and made them public, the company admitted Thursday. Someone can, for example, share a post with only a limited group of family and friends, or decide to make a post public so that anyone, including people not logged on to Facebook, can see it. It happened when the platform started building a "featured items" section in profiles for users to highlight content of their choosing.

A Facebook representative said in the statement that the company had heard "loud and clear" that it needed to be more transparent about "when things go wrong" ― and this notification was part of that effort.

The news prompted swift response from lawmakers who asked Facebook for more information on those partnerships, and raised further questions about whether Facebook has violated a privacy agreement it had made with the government in 2011. The bug didn't affect older posts, the company said.

Facebook was back in the spotlight in the past few days after the New York Times reported that Facebook had data-sharing contracts with device makers like Apple and Samsung. In the process of creating this feature, Facebook said it accidentally made the suggested audience for all new posts public.

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