Facebook announced on Thursday that millions of users had their privacy settings changed by a software bug that let anyone on the internet read status updates and posts that were intended for only private audiences.
Facebook posts typically default to the last "audience" a post was shared with, such as family members, friends, or friends except their boss.
The bug, which affected those users from May 18 to May 22, occurred while Facebook was testing a new feature.
In a statement provided to Engadget, Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan wrote: "We recently found a bug that automatically suggested posting publicly when some people were creating their Facebook posts".
"We'd like to apologize for this mistake", Egan said. She added that Facebook is notifying users who posted publicly during the time the bug was active to review their posts. "We expect that this kind of on-platform notification is something which people might see more of over the coming months as we try and do more (and better) to detect and fix issues before they affect people's experience". Typically, the social network assigns new posts the same privacy setting as the user's most recent post, unless otherwise instructed. Someone can, for example, share a post with only a limited group of family and friends, or decide to make a post public so that anyone, including people not logged on to Facebook, can see it.
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Facebook has stated that these types of notifications will be used going forward to report privacy issues or breaches.
Facebook confirmed earlier this week that China-based Huawei - which has been banned by the USA military and is a lightning rod for cyberespionage concerns - was among device makers authorized to see user data in agreements that had been in place for years.
Users can also manually change the privacy of the posts - anywhere from "public" to "only me" - when publishing to Facebook.
VentureBeat has reached out to Facebook for more information about who may have been affected and will update this story if we hear back.