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Facebook bug left 14 million users’ sharing settings open to public

Facebook has made a big stink lately about its improved focus on privacy, from alerting us to specific security settings to even removing certain functions that proved to be problematic. While not enough to make us all forgive them, it was at least a step in the right direction.

But even though Facebook appears to be trying, it seems like they can’t help but to find themselves continually embroiled in controversy. It seems like every day there is a new story about something they did wrong.

Maybe one day the Menlo Park, California company will get to relax following a job well done. This is not that day.

When private doesn’t mean private

Anyone who has used Facebook and posted anything onto the site knows (or, should know) that there are different levels of privacy regarding who can see it. They are:

Public – anyone on or off of Facebook can see

Friends – only your Facebook friends are able to view it

Friends except – your friends can see it, minus some you specifically note who cannot

Specific friends – viewable only by certain friends you designate

Only me – no one other than you can see it

Custom – you change the settings to your liking

Generally speaking, the settings are simple to understand and easy to use, so long as you remember they are present. However, for a four-day stretch in May, none of it mattered for about 14 million Facebook users.

Because for them, even if they had previously set their privacy options, everything they posted defaulted to public. There was a bug in Facebook’s system that led it to happen.

The incident, which happened while Facebook was testing a new feature, occurred between May 18 and 22. While many were impacted, it’s possible those affected never even realized it happened.

Normally Facebook will default to the privacy setting of your most recent update, which is why most probably wouldn’t even think to check before clicking or tapping to post. And unless they were paying attention after, it’s likely they never gave any of it a second thought.

Regardless, Facebook has since gone back and changed every one of the affected users’ posts to private, which unfortunately likely includes some that were meant to be shared publicly.

Tip: If you want to make sure your posts are private — even your old ones — you can do so with just one click. Read more about that here.

Was I one of the 14 million?

This is a question worth asking, but one that Facebook will answer for you. Anyone whose account was impacted by the bug will receive a notification through the Facebook app or on the website,  imploring them to review their posts.

The message will also provide a list of everything you shared during the four-day span, making it easy to go back and make public whatever you like.

Speaking of Facebook privacy, it may have died the moment you agreed to their terms of service. Kim has more about that here in her Komando on Demand podcast:

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