Facebook bug leaks members' birthday data

Facebook accidentally exposed the birth dates of its 80 million members over the weekend.

A glitch in a test version of Facebook's Web site inadvertently exposed the birthdays of Facebook's 80 million members this week.

The bug was discovered over the weekend by Sophos Senior Technology Consultant Graham Cluley. While checking out Facebook's new design, Cluley noticed that the birth dates of some of his privacy-obsessed acquaintances were popping up when they should have been hidden.

Facebook allows users to control who sees private information such as their birth date, which can be a valuable nugget of data for identity thieves. But Cluley discovered that the new site was making this information public to other members. "Their new profile page essentially ignored the privacy setting to withhold the data of birth," he said.

"For a brief period of time, a small number of users were able to access a private beta of Facebook's new site design meant only for developers. During that time, some of those users had their birthdays revealed due to a bug," Facebook said Wednesday in a statement. The company could not say exactly how long this data was exposed or how many people viewed the beta site, but the bug was patched within hours of Cluley's discovery.

Facebook may intend for the beta site to be private, but it has been open to the general public for several days. It features a new profile design that should be rolled out as an option to Facebook users some time this week.

Cluley himself did not consider this a major data breach, but he said it should serve as a warning to people who put a lot of information on social networks. "It raises a more serious question which is, 'Can you trust these social networks to look after your data properly?'" he said.

Facebook is sensitive about privacy. In November the company scrambled to fix its Beacon ad system after a CA researcher discovered that the system was collecting data on users' online behavior, despite Facebook's assurances to the contrary.

"With Beacon we just screwed it up," said Matt Cohler, the company's vice president of product management, during a March session with reporters.

Cluley isn't sure that won't happen again. He's telling his friends to just make up a birth date on Facebook from now on.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?