Bugs Undermine Samsung and Facebook Users' Privacy

Nothing is perfect, and that's especially true of software, which often has so many issues that entire teams are devoted to fixing problems rather than introducing new features. People who use Samsung's messaging app or Facebook's blocking feature are becoming all-too-familiar with that fact. Bugs in both company's software have undermined the privacy of those relying on the platforms to communicate with the outside world.

Samsung's problem lies with the default messaging app its Android smartphones use. People have complained on Reddit and the company's official forums about some of their photos--or even their entire photo gallery--being sent to their contacts without their knowledge or consent. The consequences of this bug could range from harmless (sending a selfie to a friend) to horribly invasive (sending lewd photos to a co-worker).

Right now the best solution to this problem appears to be preventing Samsung Messages from accessing your smartphone's storage. You could also use a different messaging app, like Android Messages, if you still want to be able to send photos to your contacts. Samsung told Gizmodo it doesn't yet know what's causing this problem, so you should be wary of the company's messaging app until it's found the flaw and released a fix.

Facebook's issue was potentially more serious. The company said it notified 800,000 of its users about a problem that allowed someone they'd blocked to see what they shared or contact them on Messenger. This completely defeated the purpose of using the block feature, and according to Facebook, the problem was present for a full week from May 29 to June 5.

Here's what the company said about what the bug did and didn't do and its scope:

  • It did not reinstate any friend connections that had been severed.
  • 83 percent of people affected by the bug had only one person they had blocked temporarily unblocked.
  • Someone who was temporarily unblocked might have been able to contact people on Messenger who had blocked them.

The problem has purportedly been resolved. Facebook said people affected by the bug will receive a notification prompting them to double check their blocked list to make sure everyone who's supposed to be blocked still is. In the meantime, there's no way to tell if someone who was blocked was able to view what you shared during that one-week period.

This bug's consequences also vary in their severity. Affected users may have unwittingly given away their location to someone they blocked for fear of their own safety, for example, or a family member could have seen a meme they weren't supposed to see. How disastrous this bug might have been depends on what you've shared, who you've blocked and whether or not they could use what they saw during that week against you.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.