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).
You Luv 'Call Me Maybe'
Remember when you were having that <em>really bad</em> day and blasted Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" 23 times on Spotfiy? Yeah... well, we witnessed that low moment via your Facebook profile's ticker, the real-time mini feed located in the upper right hand corner of Facebook pages. If you don't want to share your (possibly embarrassing) musical preferences with your Facebook friends, make sure to turn off the "Share to Facebook" button (at the top right of your Spotify desktop app).
You Can't Resist Clicking On Sketchy, Sexy Video Links
Some Facebook apps, like Socialcam, are designed to make you click on content by using sleazy, eye-catching headlines. "Socialcam's 'trending' videos read like a bunch of crossovers between the 'American Pie' franchise and 'Jackass,'" <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/socialcams-so-sleazy-its-insightful/2012/06/05/gJQAor3FGV_story.html" target="_hplink">The Washington Post wrote</a> in June. If you're a SocialCam user, remember that the spam-like titles of videos you view automatically pop up on your profile, so your friends all might know when you've watched "CraZy ThReeSom!" or "Two Wasted Chicks" last week.
You Can't Get Enough Sideboob In Your News
Glancing at a juicy article on how Miley Cyrus <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/miley-cyrus-side-boob-actress-sex-scenes-losing-virginity_n_1536026.html" target="_hplink">flashed some sideboob</a>? While this wouldn't phase some Facebook users, others would prefer not to have anything with the word "sideboob" published on their profiles or in friends' News Feeds. Facebook's social reader apps track the articles you read, and with permission you grant when first downloading the app, then post the stories automatically to your wall. So be weary of those scandalous headlines promising half-naked pictures.
How Old You Are
Some people love getting birthday wishes via Facebook. But putting your your full date of birth on any social networking site means strangers are privy to information that can be used to steal your identity. If you want to keep your birthday up online, consider taking the safe route and nix the year.
You Went Out Boozin' Every Night Last Week
Friends or apps can now tag your location via Facebook. But maybe you don't want everyone to know you're visiting that neighborhood dive bar for the fourth night this week. "There isn't a specific setting to block people from tagging you in a post that includes a location," <a href="https://www.facebook.com/help/location/privacy" target="_hplink">Facebook's site reads</a>. This means if you don't want your whereabouts known, you'll have to change your Timeline setting to approve all tags before they're posted, or manually remove the tags once they've been published.
You Are Addicted To Artsy Pics Of Beaches And Breakfast Food
Photo-sharing app Instagram is relatively direct in telling you where your pictures are posted. But you might unknowingly be photo-spamming your friend's Facebook feeds by letting the app re-post every picture you "like" onto Facebook. And things could get a little dicey depending on <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/instagram-porn_n_1842761.html?utm_hp_ref=technology" target="_hplink">what types of images you view.</a> Luckily this feature is easy to change. Just go into the settings options on your Instagram app, click the "Share Settings" tab and turn off the setting that shares "Liked" photos to your Facebook timeline.
What Your Kids' Names Are
Tagging or naming younger children on Facebook can be a dangerous move. Similar to putting your full birthday on the interent, you could be offering up too much information and enabling a breach of privacy. "If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name," <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/june/electronics-computers/social-insecurity/7-things-to-stop-doing-on-facebook/index.htm" target="_hplink">Consumer Reports advises</a>.