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Facebook bug dishes out notes designated private

Company reps keep the flaw secret

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Facebook users who type sensitive information into a site feature known as Notes may be interested in knowing that it is currently experiencing a bug that allows documents designated as private to be read anyway.

A Facebook customer service representative privately confirmed the bug to a user who complained that notes he configured to be private were anything but. That was on Friday. Four days later, the site has yet to issue any public notification of the flaw.

"We hope to resolve this note privacy settings bug that you described as soon as possible," a rep by the name of Pam wrote. "I would suggest that you contact us in several days if this problem has not been fixed."

This isn't the first time Facebook has failed to make good on promises to keep user information private. In June, a researcher disclosed a Facebook hole that publicly revealed a user's political views, religious back ground and other sensitive details even when a profile was configured so it was viewable only to designated friends.

Facebook added a blog-like feature called Notes in August 2006. Notes can be tagged with the names of other Facebook users so they automatically receive a copy. Facebook also provides a means that's supposed to keep them private.

"Does this mean you already knew about this problem but have continued to let people use notes without any warning?" the Facebook user wrote in response to Pam's email. "Is this solely related to notes or does this affect other parts of facebook/apps?"

Excellent questions. But unfortunately, Pam didn't answer. Several hours after this story was published, a Facebook spokeswoman emailed to say the problem was the result of the user setting up conflicting privacy settings.

"To clarify, this is not a bug," she wrote. "This user most likely set their Notes privacy settings to 'Only Me,' however, they include Notes on their Limited Profile. Therefore, the people on their Limited Profile list can see their notes." ®

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