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Facebook privacy-setting bug caused 14 million users’ posts to be shared publicly

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Facebook announced it discovered an internal bug which caused new posts created by 14 million of its users to be posted as public. When users create new posts on Facebook, they are provided with an “audience selector” - a drop down menu, from which they choose either “Public”, “Friends”, or “Friends and Connections”. This feature allows users to choose who on the social network platform can see their posts.

However, the bug led all new posts of the affected users automatically be posted as public. Facebook assured users that only new posts were affected by the bug, adding that all old posts remain unimpacted.

“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,” Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan, said in a statement.

The bug reportedly affected users between May 18 and May 22. However, it took Facebook another five days, till May 27, to switch back users’ posts to the privacy setting that it was before, TechCrunch reported.

Facebook said it has already begun notifying the affected 14 million users, requesting them to review any posts made during that time.

Facebook’s privacy gaffe comes in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, from which the social media giant has yet to completely recover. The scandal came to light after whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed that the now-defunct data firm surreptitiously harvested the private information of around 87 million Facebook users.

The revelations severely impacted Facebook’s reputation and led to various governments launching several probes into the social media giant’s handling of user data. Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have since apologised for the breach and vowed to be more transparent and vigilant in handling users’ data and protecting their privacy.

However, the newly discovered internal bug indicates that Facebook likely still has a long way to go in securing its users’ privacy.

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