Facebook has been at the center of a seemingly unending series of data-privacy scandals this year, and just days after the company was exposed for sharing data with 60 major device developers - contradicting testimony that Mark Zuckerberg gave to Congress - Recode is reporting that the company has copped to another colossal blunder: as many as 14 million Facebook users who believed they were posting items that only their friends or smaller groups could access instead may have shared that content publicly.
According to Facebook, a software bug, which was live for 10 days in May, updated the audience for some user’s posts to "public" without any warning. Facebook typically lets users set the audiences who get to see posts; that setting is "sticky," which means it remains the default setting until manually updated.
Facebook didn't specify how many of these people actually posted things that were shared more widely than they would've liked. It's also unclear how many people noticed the settings change. The company said Thursday it would begin to alert people who were impacted. As Recode points out: "Obviously this is another public relations and management disaster and it is unclear how widespread the problem is."
Facebook offered an apology:
"We’d like to apologize for this mistake," Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, said in a statement about the issue.
Still, that doesn't change the fact that Facebook has lost all benefit of the doubt in recent months, even if the company's recent privacy scandals have paradoxically resulted in even more traffic (reportedly, as there is no way to check any of these claims) for the social network.
"Knowing who sees your posts is an important part of feeling safe on the huge social networking platform," Recode said. The issue also "cuts at a core part of Facebook's pitch to users, that they have control over who sees their posts."