Facebook bug set 14 million users’ sharing settings to public

Facebook says a software bug made some private posts public for as many as 14 million users over several days in May

While relatively minor compared to recent issues facing the company, the glitch is another embarrassing slip-up for a firm already under heavy fire over privacy concerns.

For a few days last month, a software bug caused 14 million Facebook users' default setting for sharing content to be "public", meaning that some of their posts meant to be kept private were accessible to anyone on the internet, the company said Thursday.

Facebook told Recode and TechCrunch that as many as 14 million users may have been affected and had their posts made public incorrectly, adding that those people would be notified and asked to review their posts from that period. 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", said Erin Egan, Facebook's head of privacy.

Facebook said that while it was able to stop the bug on May 22, it couldn't switch all of the posts to private until May 28. Affected users will see a "Please review your posts" pop-up in their Facebook feed so they can review what private details might have leaked. The notifications about the bug leads to a page of info about the issue, with a link to review affected posts.

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During the period, any post an affected user published on Facebook would have automatically been posted publicly.

The problem, which Facebook said it has fixed, is the latest privacy scandal for the world's largest social media company. It moved too fast, and it broke something.

Facebook said it estimates 14 million people did so - and so has started notifying users. And while the bug was only in effect for a few days, it's an example of how many different settings users have to be aware of on Facebook.

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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