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08 June 2018, 02:58 | Antoinette Holland
A Facebook booth is seen at the China International Big Data Industry Expo in Guiyang Guizhou province China
Facebook says a software bug made some private posts public for as many as 14 million users over several days in May. These featured items are publicly visible, but Facebook inadvertently extended that setting to all new posts from those users. The company has persuaded billions of people to share personal details about their lives on the understanding that they have complete control over who can see what stuff.
"We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts", said Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, told CNN. "We'd like to apologise for this mistake".
It was unclear if users could have done anything to their settings to prevent being affected by the bug the company revealed on Thursday.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned for two days on Capitol Hill in April about the importance of user security.
The specific tool being tested was a "featured items" option on a user's profile that highlights photos and other content. That default was changed to public for the 14 million users, but if affected users noticed, they could have manually switched the setting themselves.
When people post to Facebook, the service suggests and audience for their posts, based on past privacy settings. For a bug to break that system for millions of users is yet another major problem Facebook is going to have to deal with.
A Facebook spokesperson said the notification is the start of new proactive and transparent way for the company to handle issues going forward. It's admitting the mistake itself, doing so promptly, and proactively notifying anyone who is affected.
Facebook's latest privacy bug is another result of the platform moving a little too fast...
Facebook's 2011 consent decree with the FTC calls for the company to get "express consent" from users before sharing their information beyond what they established in their privacy settings.
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