Facebook said it’s discovered a bug that automatically suggested public visibility for whenever some users created new posts.
On 7 June, Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said in a statement that Facebook found the bug in its audience selector. This feature lets users choose with whom they want to share their posts. For the sake of convenience, it’s supposed to auto-select the last audience with which users submitted a post, meaning it should display “Friends” if they last shared something with their friends list.
That didn’t happen between 18-27 May. During that time period, Egan explained that the audience selector suggested “Public” for new posts. This means that as many as 14 million users could have shared content publicly when they intended to only have a smaller group of people view it based upon their previous posting history.
Egan provided more information about the technical error in her statement:
This bug occurred as we were building a new way to share featured items on your profile, like a photo. Since these featured items are public, the suggested audience for all new posts – 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’d been using before.
In response to this flaw, Egan said that Facebook will be notifying everyone affected. Additionally, she said the social media giant will be displaying a notification to all users who posted publicly during the time frame when the bug was active. The notification directs users to a page that helps them learn more about how to protect their privacy on the platform. It can be found here.
News of this bug follows less than three months after news emerged of a data privacy scandal in which political brokerage firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the information off 87 million Facebook users’ profiles. Here’s some expert perspective on this previous incident.