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Facebook turns off chat system after security lapse

Users able to view the live chats of their friends.

Facebook shut down its chat system yesterday after it emerged private conversations were visible to other users, the Guardian reports.

Any user was able to view the live chats of their friends, as well as their pending friend requests, until the social media site was alerted to the problem and took Facebook chat offline.

The glitch, reported by technology blog TechCrunch, meant that people clicking on the "Preview my profile" button - which enables users to see how their information is shown to certain friends - were given information from their friends' accounts.

The world's biggest social media network has been under scrutiny over fears its new system - which opens up users' activity to other sites - makes it too difficult to keep information private.

"For a limited period of time, a bug permitted some users' chat messages and pending friend requests to be made visible to their friends by manipulating the 'preview my profile' feature of Facebook privacy settings," a company spokeswoman said.

"When we received reports of the problem, our engineers promptly diagnosed it and temporarily disabled the chat function. We also pushed out a fix to take care of the visible friend requests which is now complete. Chat will be turned back on across the site shortly.

The company issued a statement on the Facebook fan page explaining the absence of the chat feature to users. "Chat is unavailable as we work quickly to fix a bug reported to us," it said. "It should return to normal soon ... We apologise for the inconvenience."

This morning nearly 5,000 people had said they "liked" Facebook's comment.