Facebook has been having a pretty bad year so far. The social media giant barely managed to escape from the last data mining scandal and it already has another blunder on its hands.
14 Million People Affected
As Facebook struggles to recover from the severe backlash it received from the previous data scandal involving a data analytics firm called Cambridge Analytica, the company is hit by another privacy issue which affected more than 14 million users’ privacy settings.
It was a small bug which appeared in the system last month, accidentally altering the privacy settings of millions of users and making their friends-only posts public for the entire world to see. 14 million people affected by the mistake are now being sent notifications to review their privacy settings to ensure that the content is only being viewed by the audience specified by the user.
Millions of Facebook users shared private posts and images last month thinking that they were only being seen by a small group of trusted audience, but in fact, they were unknowingly putting out potentially-sensitive information for the whole world to see. Although Facebook didn’t reveal how it discovered the bug, it admitted that the blunder persisted for four days, from May 18 to May 22, affecting more than 14 million people in the process.
Facebook Privacy Officer’s Statement
In a statement admitting its mistake, Facebook said that the bug showed up while the engineers were testing a new feature and it wasn’t until users started complaining about their automatically-changed privacy settings that the company realized that it had made a huge blunder.
The feature was shut down on May 22 and the security team began assessing the damage caused by the bug. After determining how many users were affected by the unintentional privacy breech, Facebook began sending out notifications on May 27 that all posts affected by the bug had been reverted back from a public to private setting.
The chief privacy officer at Facebook, Erin Egan, said that his team is extremely sorry for the inconvenience caused to the users but the issue has now been resolved and all affected parties notified. This isn’t the first time the company’s executives have made a public apology for its privacy blunders.
Facebook began losing trust among users earlier this year when news broke that a political firm called Cambridge Analytica had gained unauthorized access to 87 million users’ data and used it help Trump win the 2016 election.
Last week, Facebook faced another serious allegation from The Times which claimed that the company had also shared its users’ data with other cellphone companies including Huawei, Apple and Samsung. All tech companies involved in the new scandal are now preparing to face a formal federal investigation.
Facebook Losing Trust
In a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute, it was revealed that Facebook had lost the trust of 66 per cent of its users in the aftermath of the recent months’ scandals.
The privacy and data protection research firm says that there have been several instances in the past where Facebook had temporarily lost the trust of its users, but none of the blunders made by the company compare to the recent scandals which have taken a toll on its reputation as well its stock performance.
To tackle the privacy issues, Facebook has introduced a number of new security features and has merged security and privacy settings in one centralized page. Despite the company’s efforts, many users admit that the new settings are still as confusing as the previous ones.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Facebook executives said that they have learned from previous data scandals that users want the company to be more transparent about privacy issues, especially when there are mistakes involved.
It heavily depends on users’ trust in its privacy features in order to keep the platform alive. Experts say that users should refrain from sharing sensitive until Facebook and other social media platforms until they improve their privacy approach and make them easier to understand by users.