Facebook Inc. had a software bug for 10 days in May that set the audience for people's posts to "public", even if they had meant to share them just with friends, or a smaller audience.
The problem, which Facebook said it has fixed, is the latest privacy scandal for the world's largest social media company. Facebook just admitted that the posts of as many as 14 million users who thought they were posting contents visible to only their friends, may have actually been shared publicly.
"We'd like to apologize for this mistake", Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in today's statement. It will also show affected users a notification with an explanation and apology, and urge them to review any posts they made during the time period when the bug was active.
Facebook confirmed earlier this week that China-based Huawei - which has been banned by the USA military and is a lightning rod for cyberespionage concerns - was among device makers authorized to see user data in agreements that had been in place for years.
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Facebook said it had reverted the audience settings to users' prior preference. Unfortunately, the bug itself is horrendous for Facebook's core reputation.
The bug, which affected those users from May 18 to May 22, occurred while Facebook was testing a new feature.
The mistake happened, that company said, when it was building a new way for people to share "featured items" on their profiles. That way, users can reset a post that was inadvertently set to public back to being shared just with friends if they would like. These items, which include posts and photo albums, are automatically public. During that time, the privacy settings on some users' posts were changed to public without any warning.
When people post to Facebook, the service suggests and audience for their posts, based on past privacy settings. So if you made all your posts "friends only" in the past, it will suggest that you make your new post "friends only" too.