It’s difficult to imagine how Facebook could have the gumption to bypass user permission yet again and quietly roll out another feature when they’re currently in trouble for doing exactly the same with their Face Recognition feature. They have implemented the “Happening Now” feature on a small fraction of the user population. The new feature is strongly reminiscent of Twitter and shows what the users’ friends are ‘liking’ and commenting on as these actions happen. With the new feature, you’ll be able to see new photos, status updates, places check ins, etc. as they occur.
It’s not quite as invasive as the Face Recognition feature, seeing as all the things published in the Happening Now feed will basically be what you would see on your friends’ pages if you happen to venture there. However, there’s a huge bug in the feature that could certainly be considered as a breach in users’ privacy (Again!? Yes. Again).
The bug involves some sort of permissions error, wherein people who normally don’t have permission to view a photo can do so thanks to the Happening Now feed. To put it in more concrete terms, here’s what could happen: say all your photos are viewable to your friends only, If one of your friends comments on a photo of you, his action will be placed in the Happening Now feed. Then, his friends (who may or may not be ‘mutual’ friends with you) will be able to see your photo from the Happening Now feed.
Right now, all they’ve tested are the photos. It’s still unknown whether the bug carries over to other features as well, such as status updates or, perhaps, places. The bug was discovered by a number of people on Twitter. When Facebook was informed of it, however, they said that it was not a ‘bug’, but that this was exactly how photos should work. A Facebook Spokesperson stated, “When a person tags their friend in a photo, the photo is posted to their friend’s Wall where their friends can see it.” It is advised that users uncheck the ‘Let friends of people tagged in my photos and posts see them’ option in the privacy settings tab. Facebook further stated that they are going to be testing and refining the feature with a fraction of the user base before deciding when or if it will be rolled out to all users. In light of these recent developments, we strongly urge users concerned about their privacy to revisit their privacy settings and select “friends only” on all options.
Checkout our detailed guide on Facebook Privacy for a walkthrough on how to configure your settings.