Facebook has been garnering all sorts of bad press lately about the iffy security and privacy of their users' information. Today's version of Whoops! for Facebook is a security lapse that allowed unauthorized strangers to see personal photographs posted in areas on Facebook that were supposed to be private. And I wasn't just making a cheap Paris Hilton joke in the headline; Paris Hilton has a Facebook page, and even she has pages labeled private that were exposed. Short of X-Rays, I can't imagine there's any more of Paris Hilton that we haven't seen, but Facebook users should be able to expect things labeled "private" to be private, shouldn't they?
The Associated Press verified the loophole Monday after receiving a tip from a Byron Ng, a Vancouver, Canada computer technician. Ng began looking for security weaknesses last week after Facebook unveiled more ways for 67 million members to restrict access to their personal profiles.
But the added protections weren't enough to prevent Ng from pulling up the most recent pictures posted by Facebook members and their friends, even if the privacy settings were set to restrict the audience to a select few.
After being alerted Monday afternoon, Facebook spokeswoman Brandee Barker said the Palo Alto-based company fixed the bug within an hour.
"We take privacy very seriously and continue to make enhancements to the site," she said.
The latest lapse serves as another reminder of the perils of sharing sensitive photos and personal information online, even when Web sites pledge to shield the information from prying eyes.
Before the fix, Ng's computer-coding trick enabled him to find private pictures of Paris Hilton at the Emmy awards and of her brother Barron Nicholas drinking a beer with friends and photos of many other people who hadn't granted access to Ng.
So Facebook has fixed it, I guess. Who knows? It was supposedly "fixed" before. At least the amusement factor is high. The AP verified the report of the loophole by viewing Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg's personal photo album. Heh.