Facebook is experiencing a bug -- but it's not quite the privacy breech that's been previously reported by multiple news sources. Here's what's going on.
The social network has been scanning private messages for links to third-party websites that use Facebook's "Like" button, a social plug-in that lets users interact with a brand's products, news articles and other types of content on webpages (without directly visiting the Facebook Page for that brand). When a user clicks the "Like" button, the number of "Likes," displayed at the right of the button, increases by one. But Likes also increase when a Facebook user sends another user a message containing a URL to a page featuring the "Like" button; this should only up the "Like" count by one, but it's actually inflating the count by two.
"We did recently find a bug with our social plug-ins where at times the count for the Share or Like goes up by two, and we are working to solve the issue now," a Facebook rep said in an email to The Huffington Post. "To be clear, this only affects social plug-ins off of Facebook and is not related to Facebook Page likes. This bug does not impact the user experience with messages or what appears on their timelines."
The rep also said that users' private information has not been exposed.
Again, to clarify some misconceptions about this bug, Facebook says it's inflating social plug-in numbers only...
...not the "Like" count on official Facebook Pages.
This story began when The Wall Street Journal reported on a video that shows how Facebook is "scanning" messages sent between friends and increasing the number of Likes for companies discussed in private conversations.
While Facebook is (and has been) scanning messages and upping "Likes" based on what it finds, it insists that this is nothing new. "There's one issue going on where counts are jumping by two, and that is a bug," the Facebook rep said. "The actual shares increasing, the actual shares going up when things are sent in messages -- that is standard behavior and you can find that in our documentation." All information posted on the social networking site is accessible for company use. Thus, if you were to share the URL for this article through a Facebook message, Facebook can check out what you're sending and adjust the "Likes" at the top of this page -- whether you clicked "Like" on it or not.
To reiterate, Facebook says that no Facebook Pages are automatically being Liked or added to your profile's Timeline or Like list.
Here is Facebook's statement regarding the privacy of users:
Absolutely no private information has been exposed. Each time a person shares a URL to Facebook, including through messages, the number of shares displayed on the social plug-in for that website increases. Our systems parse the URL being shared in order to render the appropriate preview, and to also ensure that the message is not spam. These counts do not affect the privacy settings of content, and URLs shared through private messages are not attributed publicly with user profiles.
What do you think about Facebook's liking system? Sound off in the comments section or tweet @HuffPostTech. Then check out the slideshow below of what you're probably oversharring on Facebook, or read up on the "Ten Commandments"of Facebook (here).
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