14 million Facebook users 'may have had their private posts shared publicly'

Facebook urges users to review posts they made between 18 and 27 May

Facebook has apologised for a glitch that may have resulted in 14 million users having their private social posts shared publicly.

An error in its "audience selector" tool meant posts would automatically be flagged to share to the general public, which normally would remain set to whatever preferences the user ticked most recently, the company said on Thursday.

Facebook has started notifying the 14 million users affected by the glitch, which was active from 18 to 27 May this year. Out of caution, the company has urged all users to review their posts during this time.

"This bug occurred as we were building a new way to share featured items on your profile, like a photo," Facebook's chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, said in a statement. "Since these featured items are public, the suggested audience for all new posts  not just these items was set to public.

"The problem has been fixed, and for anyone affected, we changed the audience back to what they'd been using before."

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Egan later apologised for the error in numerous statements to the media.

The swift disclosure seems to be part of Facebook's move to become more transparent, having been loudly criticised for its handling of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The discovery that up to 87 million users may have had their data improperly shared with the analytics firm led to a comprehensive review of Facebook's data processing policies and sweeping changes that limit the access third-parties have to its users.

"We've heard loud and clear that we need to be more transparent about how we build our products and how those products use your data including when things go wrong. And that is what we are doing here," Egan added.

While the sharing error differs in nature to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it's yet another privacy blunder that will once again raise questions over Facebook's ability to protect user data.

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The UK's Information Commissioner's Office revealed in April that Facebook was one of 30 organisations it would be questioning as part of its investigation into election interference and the misuse of customer data.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also faced questioning from lawmakers in both the US and EU, but has so far refused requests to appear before the UK's Parliamentary Committee.

Image: Shutterstock

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