Facebook bug reveals scores of private email addresses

A bug briefly exposed the contact information of many Facebook users on Tuesday night. Facebook reps say the problem is resolved. But how safe is the information on your Facebook page?

The Facebook homepage. A bug hit Facebook on Tuesday night, temporarily exposing the private email addresses of many Facebook users.

For at least half an hour on Tuesday night, a bug exposed the private email addresses of many Facebook users, and erased the functionality that allows users to hide some contact information. Facebook reps told the tech site V3 that the problem had occurred during a "regular code push," and confirmed that "the bug caused hidden email addresses to be visible briefly." As of Wednesday morning, the problem appears to be fixed.

The bug was a jolt to Facebook, and to millions of Facebook fans already concerned about privacy settings on the popular social networking site. "Everybody's email has been turned on to the public for at least the past 30 mins," a Gawker reader complained last night. "I tried going into my account to remove my email b/c I have an issue with a crazed stalker. But I wasn't able to... When will they ever learn?!"

Relatively speaking, Facebook has a pretty good record with security. Several phishing schemes have affected the site in the past year, and the Koobface virus, which also struck competitors MySpace and Bebo, alarmed many Facebook users. But for a site that counts upward of 350 million members, large-scale breaches – or even major service issues, à la Twitter – have been relatively rare.

Still, because Facebook is so popular – and because it attracts users of all age brackets and backgrounds – many have worried that users could inadvertently be putting too much about themselves on the Web. Last August, the Monitor reported that only 20 percent of Facebook members rely on privacy settings to regulate content.

Meanwhile, several kerfuffles have erupted over the privacy settings on Facebook – some say they're too restrictive, some say they don't go far enough. Were you affected by the Facebook bug last night? Or are you concerned about the safety of your contact information on Facebook? We want to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comments section.

[Editor's note: The original version of this story referred to the Facebook problem as a virus. It appears the issue was just a bug, not malicious code.]

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