The sharing settings of posts made by as many as 14 million Facebook users were set to ‘public’ by default for a period of 9 days in May, according to a notification distributed by the social networking giant.
The error occurred while Facebook was a testing a new feature.
To address the issue, it has begun sending out notifications to affected users. The notification reads, “we recently discovered a technical error that automatically suggested a public audience when you were creating posts.
We apologize for the mistake. The problem has been fixed, and we changed the audience of any posts you made to what you had been using before, just in case…”
When a Facebook user makes a post the sharing setting will be inherited from the user’s previous post i.e. if the last post they made was set to “private” then the sharing setting for their next post will also be set to “private.”
Upon realizing what had happened, Facebook engineers set about changing the post status of each post made by the 14 million Facebook users to “private,” irrespective whether those users had chosen to publish their posts publicly.
Even while the bug was live, the Facebook users affected could switch their posts back to their desired sharing setting.
According to a report from CNN, it took 5 days to fix the bug.
“We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts,” said Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer.
“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 has faced extensive criticism over its approach to data privacy in recent months.
Aside from the criticism directed at the platform by public officials and journalists over content hosted on the platform before, during and after the US Election of 2016, the social network is also fending off criticism for allegedly sharing friends’ data with device manufacturers, including Chinese organization Huawei.
It was also one of the first organizations to face a lawsuit in connection to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which went into force on 25th May.