Updated: Disabling permissions 'bug' in Facebook 'Happening Now' feature

Facebook's newly rolled out 'Happening Now' feature contains a major friend-permissions bug, according to some users.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Facebook has rolled out a new feature, 'Happening Now', which features on a small number of users' home screens.

Docked to the right hand side of the screen, it displays real-time updates from your friends, such as wall posts, comments and check-in information, allowing users to see how their friends are interacting with one another -- all from the main screen.

However, users have taken to Twitter to blow the whistle on a major bug with the feature -- not fully rolled out to the 700 million users, involving friends' permissions.


This is the second privacy related issue Facebook has (and will have to) deal with in the past week. European regulators are looking into Facebook's method of delivery on the facial recognition features made available to users on Tuesday.

Three users, @dezinezync, @benjacob and @hackatac who discovered the bug, explained to me on Twitter the implications:

"Say a user's photos are viewable to friends only, and this user is not in my friends list. If a friend of mine comments on the photo of that user, I can see it from the 'Happening Now' feed."

There appears to be a permissions error where those who are not in their friends list can see photos of people, even though the album is restricted to who can see it.

Effectively, if your Facebook privacy settings are not locked down, it's a "wild west scene for all to see", another discovering user described.

For now, you can limit this bug by setting your permissions on Facebook to 'friends only', as it is unclear how far this bug spreads, or whether it goes beyond photos only.

Facebook told The Next Web:

"We are currently testing a feature within the news feed that gives people the ability to see what their friends are commenting on and liking, as these actions are being taken on Facebook.

This test includes a small percentage of Facebook users, just a fraction of a percent. In the coming weeks, as we learn more from this test, we’ll keep making improvements and may expand it to more people."

While this is not yet a fully rolled-out feature -- only featuring on a select number of profiles -- this permissions error is indicative of a permissions error which could fall deeper into the site.

Facebook was immediately unavailable for comment.

Update (00:11 GMT): Spokesperson Jaime Schopflin told me that Facebook refutes this 'bug', and that "this is how photos work".

"When a person tags their friend in a photo, the photo is posted to their friend's Wall where their friends can see it."

Users can disable this feature by unchecking the "Let friends of people tagged in my photos and posts see them" option in the main Facebook privacy settings.

Update: Those who discovered this bug in the first place can now confirm that it has been fixed by Facebook, days after Facebook said that the big did not exist.

Related content:

Editorial standards