Skip to Content

Facebook Flub of the Day: Software Bug Made Millions of Users’ Private Posts Public

The more Facebook tries to put its privacy woes behind it, the more privacy snafus seem to dog it.

Last month, a software bug inadvertently switched the default privacy settings of 14 million users to public. As a result, many of those users may have unknowingly published posts as public that they intended only for certain friends.

Users who noticed the change could return the suggested setting to private.

We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts,” Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said in a statement.

“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,” Egan said. “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 apologize for this mistake.

The bug, active between May 18 and May 27, was detected on May 22 and required five days to completely repair. It follows a long string of similar privacy issues and apologies from Mark Zuckerberg to do better. After it became clear that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used personal data from as many as 87 million Facebook users to try to sway U.S. voters in 2016, U.S. and European political officials and regulators summoned Zuckerberg to testify.

Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologized in media interviews and on Facebook itself. In March, he wrote a (public) post that said, “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”

But in the past week alone, more examples of Facebook’s cavalier attitude toward user privacy has emerged: It shared the personal data of its users with mobile-device manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, and Amazon. And it later admitted to sharing such data with Chinese phone maker Huawei. The state of Washington is suing Facebook for allegedly violating campaign finance laws.