Facebook users should be asked for consent before data collected by the group's subsidiaries is combined, Germany's competition authority say. Picture: AFP
Facebook users should be asked for consent before data collected by the group's subsidiaries is combined, Germany's competition authority say. Picture: AFP

Facebook ‘glitch’ exposes women

SOCIAL media giant Facebook has today been accused of releasing a feature that makes stalking women easier, while hiding its male users from view.

The bizarre addition, available at the top of every profile, lets users instantly summon private photos of females, laying out pictorials for page after page.

But a similar search for photos of males delivers only generic, public photos, many of "man's best friend".

A bizarre search feature in Facebook shows photos of female friends but not male friends.
A bizarre search feature in Facebook shows photos of female friends but not male friends.

The strange double standard was discovered by Belgian security researcher Inti De Ceukelaire, who called it a "creepy hidden search feature".

"You can no longer retrieve hidden photos from your male friends. Women can/may still be stalked," he said.

"Even more: when you request photos from your male friends, Facebook assumes that you wanted to see pictures of women.".

The female-only search feature can be replicated across any Facebook profile by searching for "photos of female friends," and Mr De Ceukelaire, known for testing the boundaries of Facebook's privacy settings, said he stumbled upon it by accident.

Even though the social network's special treatment of women is most likely a programming error, it's reminiscent of Facebook's anti-female beginning, as a product called FaceMash.

It displayed photos of women beside one another and asked visitors to rate which was more attractive. The women had not volunteered to be part of the website.

Facebook and FaceMash founder Mark Zuckerberg described the project as "a prank website that I launched in college" during a US Senate hearing last year.

Facebook's Graph Search has also faced scrutiny since its introduction after revealing users' photos, groups, and personal information many considered private.

Facebook has been contacted for comment on the latest controversy.