Facebook discloses privacy bug “immediately” in a post-GDPR world

Facebook had a bug that set privacy status for all user posts to "public" from May 18 to 27, which affected 14 million users
8 June 2018

Facebook set your posts to public by default last month. Source: Shutterstock

Yesterday, Facebook announced that it faced an issue last month that put users at risk.

For 10 days, between May 18 and 27, the company said it discovered a “technical error” that automatically suggested a public audience when users created a post.

Simply put, for users whose default setting is not “public”, posts were automatically set to public as a result of the “privacy bug”.

According to Facebook, this bug affected 14 million users. The company has started notifying users about the glitch and is requesting them to review each post made during that period.

In the meanwhile, the company has set all posts for all of the affected users, as private – until they review and choose to “set to public” again.

In Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Erin Egan’s words:

We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts.

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.

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.

While the social media giant claims that the announcement is a start to the new proactive and transparent ways for the company to handle issues going forward, experts believe that it was a result of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into effect last month.

In fact, earlier this week, Facebook also announced that it has had data-sharing partnerships with at least four Chinese electronics companies, including a manufacturing giant that has a close relationship with China’s government.

According to the New York Times, there are agreements dating back to at least 2010, giving Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL, private access to some user data.

Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications equipment company was flagged by American intelligence officials as a national security threat.

Senator John Thune, the South Dakota Republican who leads the Commerce Committee, has demanded that Facebook provide Congress with details about its data partnerships. “Facebook is learning hard lessons that meaningful transparency is a high standard to meet,” Thune told the New York Times.

Going forward, there’s hope that Facebook will be both, more vigilant about user data, and more transparent about lapses.