The irish regulator investigates Facebook private photo glitch

(Reuters) – An Irish regulator said on Friday it was investigating Facebook Inc (FB.O) after the company’s disclosure that a bug may have been exposed private photos to 6.8 million users, the latest in a string of Facebook privacy issues.

The Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), the lead regulator of Facebook in the European Union, said that the investigation is to determine whether the company had complied with the strict new european privacy rules in response to a number of breaches, including the one that exposed photos.

Facebook said in a statement that it is in close contact with the Irish regulator and are happy to answer any questions.

The research is in the second opened by the DPC in Facebook since the new regulations came into force in May.

Facebook known the photo glitch earlier on Friday, saying that it allowed approximately 1500 software apps to access private photos for 12 days to Sept. 25.

“We find it unfortunate that this happened,” Facebook said in a blog.

The European law requires companies to report data breaches to authorities within 72 hours, giving regulators authority to impose fines of up to 4 percent of the annual worldwide turnover for violations.

Facebook said it would warn users whose photos have been exposed.

The glitch can undermine Facebook’s efforts to assure users and regulators that it is making progress in strengthening the safety and privacy after a series of tax, internet analysts.

They include the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the British political consultancy harvested data from at least 87 million Facebook users and sold for political use and a violation of the security for almost 30 million users.

“We already have a lot of evidence to reinforce the idea that Facebook is sloppy, the prioritization of growth at the expense of other considerations,” Brian Wieser, an analyst at Central Research, said in an e-mail.

New reports of errors and violations increase the probability that the government will add regulations on Facebook, said George Salmon, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

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“Facebook is wise to try hard to regain the trust of its users, but all of those efforts are in vain if stories like this keep emerging,” Salmon said.

The bug affected users who uses third-party consent to have their photos.

Facebook usually only grants such apps have access to photos shared on the timeline, but the bug potentially allowed developers the access to other photos, including the ones that were uploaded but not posted, and the ones shared on Marketplace and Facebook Stories, the company said.

Reporting by Arjuna Panchadar in Bengaluru and Angela Moon in New York; additional reporting by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

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