Fourteen million Facebook users recently woke up to an email in their inboxes, informing them of another privacy issue with their accounts.
According to the message, between May 18 and May 27, a software bug within the company turned some users’ private posts into public shares. Even after they found the bug on May 22, it still affected some posts.
The privacy settings you choose for your Facebook posts are “semi-permanent,” meaning once you choose either “public” or “private,” all of your posts will fall under that setting unless you manually change it. The issue with the bug is this: Facebook’s software switched that setting to “public” for millions of users without their knowledge and without Facebook employees realizing it. All of the content that the affected users posted during that time (believing that their privacy settings were still active) were made public.
Facebook apologized for the error and instructed users to go back through all of their posts since that date and reset them to private. But as the latest in a long string of privacy blunders (both intentional and accidental), users may be becoming more and more frustrated with the platform.
Part of the frustration may come from the familiarity we have with social media and the internet. We’ve moved on from the days when this “newfangled” concept left us feeling cautious about where our information might end up and who could see it; now, too many of us are either unconvinced that anyone cares about stealing our data or unconcerned with how they are using it.
A survey about phone scams and similar crimes revealed our attitudes towards our personal privacy. While senior citizens are still more likely to lose a slightly larger amount of money to a scammer, millennials are more likely to fall for a scam in the first place. Experts who evaluated the findings attribute it to two things: first, younger people may mistakenly believe they are less of a target than older, more naïve consumers, and because millennials may put more trust in technology and their privacy. Another factor seemed to be an “oh well, my information is already ‘out there’” mentality in younger consumers who’ve already endured years of record-setting data breaches.
For users who are concerned about their privacy and data security on social media and other websites—and let’s face it, that should be everyuser—it’s important to take every precaution when it comes to what you share and how it gets spread. Whether purely by accident or as part of innovating their platforms, every website could change how it operates; that means users cannot sit back and trust that the account settings they enacted a few years ago are still adequate to protect them today.
The old advice still rings true: nothing is ever truly private on the internet, and nothing is ever really deleted. If you let that tongue-in-cheek advice guide your content posts, your privacy awareness, and your habits concerning monitoring your accounts, you can feel a little more confident with what you share online.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.