Facebook Bug Affected 800,000 Users

As the issues of user data protection becomes an integral part of mainstream discussion, more and more reports of violations are surfacing

In a recent report, social media giant Facebook Inc. (FB) confirmed that a bug “briefly” enabled access to blocked users, allowing them to send unwelcome messages and expose hidden posts and updates of the users who had blocked them, according to CNBC.

The Bug of Blocking Function

The bug pertains to an issue related to the blocking function. When a Facebook user blocks another user, the latter (blocked user) cannot see things that the former posts on their profile, they cannot start a conversation with the former on Facebook Messenger and they cannot add the former user as a friend. Blocking also removes the user from one’s friend list if they were friends earlier on the platform.

While the company reports that the bug is now fixed, it admitted that up to 800,000 users were affected by the flaw. It temporarily unblocked people on Facebook Messenger, whom users had earlier blocked from sending messages to them. The company added that “while someone who was unblocked could not see content shared with friends, they could have seen things posted to a wider audience. For example pictures shared with friends of friends.”

The issue was active between May 29 and June 5 and is now reported to be fixed. "We know that the ability to block someone is important—and we’d like to apologize and explain what happened," said Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan in an FB Newroom post. The incident adds to the list of several other similar cases when the social media company has (un)intentionally revealed user data and details, which should have otherwise remain inaccessible.

Too Much Information Sharing?

Last week, the company admitted to giving user data to more than 61 companies despite the company earlier saying that it had restricted the access to such information in 2015. (See also: Facebook Gave Data to 61 Firms Despite Assurances.)

And earlier in June, there were reports that over the past decade, the social media giant signed business pacts to share user data with more than five dozen companies including technology giants like Apple Inc. (AAPL), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), BlackBerry Ltd. (BB), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Samsung. 

Facebook had then argued that the deals were signed to allow “device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, ‘like’ buttons and address books,” as the social media network attempted to expand its reach. However, it led to millions of data points getting revealed by the partner firms. (See also: How Much Can Facebook Potentially Make from Selling Your Data.)

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