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A bug unblocked more than 800,000 Facebook and Messenger users

The bug temporarily unblocked the users for eight days at the end of May and beginning of June.

A bug unblocked more than 800,000 Facebook and Messenger users
[Photo: courtesy of Facebook]
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It’s not on the scale of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but Facebook once again has egg on its face thanks to a privacy problem.

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Today, the company said it had discovered a bug that, from May 29 to June 5, accidentally unblocked more than 800,000 people that Facebook and Messenger users had blocked. In a blog post, chief privacy officer Erin Egan noted that the unblocking did not surface information shared with friends, but did show things posted to wider audiences, for example, images users shared with friends of friends.

“We know that the ability to block someone is important,” Egan wrote, “and we’d like to apologize and explain what happened.”

Egan explained that blocked users can’t add you as a friend, see things you post on your profile, or begin Messenger conversations with you. In addition, by blocking someone who was previously a friend, you automatically unfriend them.

The bug didn’t reinstate any previously severed friend connections, Facebook says, and 83% of users the bug affected had only one previously blocked person temporarily unblocked. However, because of the bug, someone who was unblocked could have been able to message a user who had blocked them in the past.

Facebook says the bug is now fixed, all previously blocked users are now blocked again, and those affected will be hearing from Facebook with an encouragement to check their block list.

Clearly, this isn’t a major issue, but the last thing Facebook needs right now is more conversation about its problems protecting users’ privacy. Especially as it runs a major advertising campaign already apologizing for its errors of the past few months.

About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications

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