A Belgian security researcher has found an unusual quirk in Facebook’s search function. Facebook lets you search for photos of your female friends, but refuses to do the same for your male friends. The bizarre find was discovered this weekend by notorious Belgian white-hat hacker Inti De Ceukelaire.
We managed to replicate the glitch across several Facebook accounts. When you type “photos of my female friends” into the search bar, Facebook will return a seemingly-random selection of photos from your female friends. On the other hand, doing the same for male friends, search results are completely different.
Surprising, the social-networking giant, will also ask if you meant to type “female,” assuming you mistyped your query.
Inti De Ceukelaire has made a name for himself over the past few years, thanks to the multitude of pranks he’s pulled, almost all with the aim of exposing security and privacy inadequacies within the services we use. In 2017, he used Facebook’s private search functionality to find the personal email address of U.S current First Lady; Melania Trump. Just a few months earlier, he searched for expired domain names on Donald Trump’s previous tweets in order to redirect them to a video celebrating his hometown of Aalst.
Broadly speaking, his modus operandi is to test the limits of the platforms he’s targeting without using the more aggressive tools and tactics of other hackers.
Speaking to The Next Web (TNW), De Ceukelaire explained that this incident was no different, and he stumbled upon this quirky little bug merely by chance.
De Ceukelaire runs a site called stalkscan.com, which allows anyone to see what kinds of information their profiles are leaking, thanks to Facebook’s advanced Graph Search tools. Graph Search has been around in various forms since 2013, and allows users to parse through social data using natural language queries — queries like “photos of my female friends.”
It’s unlikely Facebook is a fan of stalkscan. De Ceukelaire believes the social giant has taken steps to stop it from working, and over the past few months he has faced several temporary service disruptions. It was after one perceived incident that he noticed this weird quirk, purely by chance.
“I found that I could no longer filter by men, but it was still possible to filter by females” De Ceukelaire told me. Worse, he said, when he searched for photos of his male friends, Facebook would ask if he meant photos of his female friends.
TNW reached out to Facebook to hear their side of their story. Facebook confirms they’re yet to issue a statement.
Written with inputs from The Next Web (TNW)