Facebook flaw exposes messages

Facebook has admitted that the instant messaging conversations of some users were exposed through a bug in its “preview my profile” feature.

The feature allows users to preview how their profile looks to each of their friends with different privacy settings applied. However, TechCrunch revealed that by exploiting a bug in the feature, friends could gain access to conversations and pending friend requests they were supposed to be locked out of.

Our view is that the FTC needs to act on consumer concerns about Facebook’s sloppy privacy and security practices

“When we received reports of the problem, our engineers promptly diagnosed it and temporarily disabled the chat function,” said a Facebook spokeswoman.

“We worked quickly to resolve this matter, ensuring that once the bug was reported to us, a solution was quickly found and implemented. We don’t have specifics on how long the vulnerability existed, but it was for a short period of time,” she concluded.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said Facebook’s privacy slip-up underscored the need for greater scrutiny of the company.

“Our view is that the FTC needs to act on consumer concerns about Facebook’s sloppy privacy and security practices,” Rotenberg said.

Google spurred a privacy controversy in February when it launched a new social-media service dubbed Buzz.

The service initially used an individual’s email contacts from Google Gmail to build a social network of Buzz contacts that the rest of the world could see. Google acted quickly to change the settings so that contacts were kept private by default.

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