Facebook Admits to a Major Glitch That Unblocked Accounts

A new glitch on Facebook affected thousands of users’ privacy settings. (Image:  pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
A new glitch on Facebook affected thousands of users’ privacy settings. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

A new glitch on Facebook affected thousands of users’ privacy settings. And though the company has patched the bug and returned things back to normal, Facebook’s increasing privacy breaches are definitely becoming a cause for concern.

The blocking bug

The bug reportedly allowed people who had been blocked by a user to have access to the user’s posts. This was largely applicable to content that was shared with the public and not limited to friends alone.

“We are notifying over 800,000 users about a bug in Facebook and Messenger that unblocked some people they had blocked. The bug was active between May 29 and June 5,” the company said in a statement.

However, the bug did not reinstate any connections that had been previously severed. As per Facebook’s estimates, 83 percent of users who had used the blocking feature on multiple people only had a single person unblocked. And in some cases, this unblocked person could also have communicated with the user. Despite these issues, Facebook is now free from the glitch. And according to the company, things are back to normal.

Facebook workers suppressed conservative news reports from the social network’s influential 'trending' news section, says a former 'news curator' for the company. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

The bug reportedly allowed people who had been blocked by a user to have access to the user’s posts. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

When questioned by TechCruch as to how the glitch occurred, Facebook commented that: “Most visible user data on Facebook is stored in pairs called ‘associations’ that control what posts people see and the actions they can take. A bug mistakenly deleted some of these associations across Facebook and Messenger, which caused blocks to be lost.”

The curious thing about the entire matter is that even though the bug was active from May 29, Facebook took more than a month to fix the issue and protect the privacy of its users.

A history of privacy breaches

This is not the first time that private user information has been compromised by Facebook. A similar incident took place in May when the company’s WhatsApp messenger was known to unblock people that a user had already blocked. As a consequence, the unblocked person could easily see the photos, videos, posts, etc. of the user. They could even send messages. Many users had received such unwanted messages from people they had blocked, which caused a large outcry among Facebook users.

But the biggest headache for Facebook was the Cambridge Analytica scandal where the data mining company had used the user data it had collected to influence the users to support Trump’s presidential campaign. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even had to testify before the Congress on how the social media company protects the data of its users.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even had to testify before the Congress on how the social media company protects the data of its users. (Image: Jason McELweenie via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

The company has also been accused of entering into secret deals with smartphone and OEM companies to share user data with them. And a more recent glitch from Facebook reportedly left 120 million users’ private information exposed to third-party users till last month.

With increasing incidents of privacy breaches, Facebook is definitely under pressure to tighten its security features and get rid of its shady data-sharing deals with the corporates. However, many believe that Facebook is not doing enough to keep the user data safe. As a result, there have been suggestions from legal experts to allow Facebook users to sue the company in case of data breaches. They believe that such a law would act as an incentive for the company to take the task of protecting user data seriously.

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