Facebook has had to warn 800,000 of its users that a bug may have temporarily unblocked blocked users from their accounts. In effect, for those involved and who had people blocked, it meant that those blocked people could have had some form of access to their accounts again, albeit temporarily.
For some people, who noticed that their block list had gotten shorter without their doing or knowledge, it would have been an unsettling notion that these blocked people now had access to their lives again. As Yahoo! points out, the blocking function can sometimes be used by people on Facebook against other people who are abusive towards them or have harassed them in the past. So, this security breach could be considered a major screw-up on Facebook’s behalf.
Facebook has since apologized for the malfunction and assures users that the unblock bug was only temporary and has since been resolved.
“We know that the ability to block someone is important — and we’d like to apologize and explain what happened,” said Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, in a statement posted to the Facebook Newsroom on July 2.
“Starting today we are notifying over 800,000 users about a bug in Facebook and Messenger that unblocked some people they had blocked. The bug was active between May 29 and June 5 — and while someone who was unblocked could not see content shared with friends, they could have seen things posted to a wider audience. For example, pictures shared with friends of friends.”
The potential was also there for blocked users to contact, via Messenger, those that had blocked them.
According to Yahoo!, of those 800,000 affected, 83 percent (which is about 664,000 people) had “one person they had blocked unblocked by the bug.” The remaining 17 percent (about 136,000 people) had “more than one unblocked.”
Considering the breach occurred at the end of May to the very beginning of June, it is unclear just how many of these unblocked people took advantage of the situation as Facebook have, so far, declined to comment on that aspect of the situation. However, the potential is there that the window of opportunity could have, potentially, been open until the statement was issued on July 2 saying the problem was now rectified.
So, what happens now if you are one of the 800,000 users affected by the unblock malfunction?
Facebook has advised those users affected that they needn’t do anything as the issue has now been rectified. However, Facebook also asks that you check your blocked list to make sure it still includes all of those previously on your list.
“This issue has now been fixed and everyone has been blocked again. People who were affected will get a notification on Facebook encouraging them to check their blocked list.”