Photo Privacy Broken on Facebook Timeline

miqrogroove
2012-01-10T16:31:14+00:00
Facebook Profile with sensitive areas blurred

My Public Profile Should Not Look Like This

Have you ever added one of your photos to a Facebook group?  If yes, you might want to delete your photo albums right now.  I discovered today that the Facebook privacy settings for photos do not work.

Inspired by a discussion about social media I heard on NPR, I went into Facebook to do a thorough check and re-check of all of my privacy settings.  Guess what?

Dozens of photos I have on my Timeline are now publicly available.  >:{  Every one of those photos is set to “Friends” only privacy.  When I click the “View As…” option and then “Public”, all of those photos are now appearing on my public Timeline profile.

To confirm this, I registered a fake account that has no friends.  I viewed my own profile using that new account and a different web browser.  When I scrolled down far enough on the Timeline, my old photos started showing up to this newly registered user!

The fake user gets nothing by clicking on the “Photos” section near the top, suggesting this bug is specific to the new Timeline profile feature.

In an unsuccessful attempt to hide the photos, I used my real account to reset the album privacy to “Only Me”.  At this point, the photos were still appearing in the public preview as well as the fake account viewing my real profile.

The underlying cause appears to be that, years ago, I had somehow linked these photos to various Facebook groups.  When I look at the group photos it still says the privacy level is “Only Me”, which is what I want.  However, the photos remain publicly available both through the group pages, as well as on my personal Timeline, even though I have specified that no one should be able to see them except for me.

Feeling a bit panicked, I went to one of the photos and deleted it.  This seems to make the photo disappear from all places on Facebook.  I decided to remove the entire album from Facebook, as that seemed to be the only available resolution.  All of the captions, tags, and comments will be lost, but I feel this is necessary.

Recommendations

Users:  As always, Facebook should be treated as a public website operating on a public network.  I never upload anything that would be publicly embarrassing.  Nevertheless, I do get uncomfortable when my photos can be seen by people other than my friends.

Developers:  Please fix this.  I do care enough about Facebook to want it to work properly.  I have not contacted Facebook about this particular bug directly because past reports never received any response.  There is a suitable workaround, which is to delete any photos that should not be made public.

10 Jan 2012

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Security

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2 Comments

  • Brian says:

    Yes
    i hv got the same problem
    n i really wanna know ho to fix it
    coz i would not like to show my photos publicly

  • kat says:

    I’m pretty sure this is not a programming error, but a top down decision to screw over users’ privacy. Facebook is constantly changing the privacy settings for no apparent reason other than to expose everything about a user to everyone. I had a little hope that the profile review feature that appeared some time this year marked some improvement, but that hope has disappeared when the feature suddenly disappeared and was replaced by lies.

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