You might want to go back and look through the things you've posted on Facebook recently. A report from Recode on Thursday confirmed a Facebook bug may have switched up privacy settings for millions and millions of users. On Thursday, CNN reported that the bug slipped into the systems and affected about 14 million users while Facebook was testing out a new feature. Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan has apologized for the mishap, according to Recode.
While CNN maintains the bug was active only from May 18 to May 22, Recode suggests new posts' default sharing setting was automatically set to "public" for 10 days. When the bug was discovered, Facebook changed the settings back to private for all the posts unintentionally switched to public, including for posts that were meant to be public. According to CNN, Facebook said it took five days to successfully make the changes and resolve the problem. It's worth noting the bug only affected new posts, not old ones.
The bug, according to NBC News, manifested when Facebook was implementing a new approach to share featured items on a user’s profile, such as photos. Those featured items are public, and because of that, the bug accidentally switched the default audience to public. Facebook chief privacy officer Egan told CNN:
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.
Facebook usually lets users decide who can see their posts. If a user creates an account and doesn't mess with the settings, the account stays in default mode until someone goes in to manually change it. If you go on your account, you'll see that Facebook posts default to the last "audience" a post was shared with.
Facebook users who were affected should get a notification starting Thursday that advises users to "Please Review Your Posts," along with a link to what the user shared on Facebook while the bug was live, according to Recode. The social media company did not clarify how many of the millions affected were aware that they may have been posting to a global audience (or at least, anyone who searched or happened to come across their profile).
This latest problem hits a company that's already had to deal with widespread privacy issues. In recent months, news of Facebook's connection to Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm, came to light. The social media company allowed the data firm to harvest the private information of up to 87 million users, according to the New York Times. Cambridge Analytica was hired by President Trump's campaign team for the 2016 election, a move that has been under severe scrutiny; the firm had gained access to private information that could have profiled American voters and potentially influence their thinking, according to the New York Times. The scandal led to congressional hearings in April, when Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, had to testify twice before different House and Senate committees.
As Facebook solves these privacy issues, this is a good time to check all your social media accounts to make sure those settings are exactly where you want them to be — and to remember that there's always a privacy risk with whatever you choose to release on to the internet.