Facebook says it accidentally let anybody read posts that were supposed to be private from 14 million users

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesFacebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing.
  • Facebook announced on Thursday that it had discovered a software bug that caused millions of status updates intended to be posted privately among friends to be public.
  • The bug affected as many as 14 million users between May 18 and 27, according to Facebook.
  • The company says that affected users would be notified and asked to review their posts from that period.

Facebook announced on Thursday that millions of users had their privacy settings changed by a software bug that let anyone on the internet read status updates and posts that were intended only for private audiences.

The company said the problem occurred between May 18 and May 27 and has since been fixed. As many as 14 million users were affected by the bug and had their posts made public incorrectly. Starting today, those people will be notified and asked to review their posts from that period.

Specifically, what the bug did to affected users was change the default security setting on every new post: Instead of automatically making every new post visible to just friends-the way most people had it set before the bug-new posts would be set to post publicly. If users didn’t notice their default post settings had changed, all their new posts would be viewable by anyone on the internet.

Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan tells Business Insider:

We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts. We have fixed this issue and starting today we are letting everyone 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. We’d like to apologise for this mistake

People on Twitter are showing what the notification that they were affected looks like:

It’s the latest in a series of high-profile embarrassments for Facebook as the company attempts to regain the trust of its users in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the personal information of up to 87 million users was found to have been improperly obtained by a political-research firm and used for campaign ad targeting.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned for two days on Capitol Hill in April about the importance of user security. He apologised for Facebook’s handling of the issue and promised that the company would be more transparent and “do better” when it comes to protecting user data and security.

“It will take some time to work through all the changes we need to make across the company,” Zuckerberg said on the first day of hearings. “But I’m committed to getting this right.”

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