Facebook’s latest privacy blunder, explained

Facebook’s year of privacy blunders got worse on Thursday when it was announced that as many as 14 million Facebook users, who thought they were posting items they only wanted their friends or smaller groups to see, may have unknowingly posted that content publicly.

How does that happen? And what does this mean for Facebook and its users? We’ve got answers.

What happened?

Facebook is blaming a software bug for automatically changing an important privacy setting: The setting that determines who can see a user’s new posts. That setting is ”sticky,” which means it stays consistent from post to post unless it’s manually changed. So if you share a post exclusively with your Facebook “friends,” all future posts will appear for that same group unless the setting is updated manually. Facebook says a software bug changed that setting to “public” for 14 million users without any warning, meaning people posting under the impression they were sharing with a smaller group of users, may have unknowingly shared with everyone.

Why does it matter?

One of Facebook’s key promises to users is that they control who can see their content. A bug like this completely undermines that promise, and erodes user trust, which was already a major issue given Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle.

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