Hoaxes & Rumors

Are Private Facebook Messages Being Made Public?

Are Private Facebook Messages Being Made Public?

The past week has been rife with rumors that private Facebook messages have appeared publicly on users timelines. Is there any truth to these reports?

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Facebook denies it, hoax sites claim it is false, but some users still insist it happened.

The rumor began only last week, and originally stated that some users in France claimed that messages from 2010 appeared publicly on their timeline. The rumor went viral and users all over the world began questioning if their private messages would see the light of day.

Facebook and anti-hoax sites immediately went to work to debunk the rumor. If one reads this post from Financial Post, for example, the article itself does a rather thorough job of debunking the rumor. They quoted a Facebook spokesman that stated, “A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their timeline.”

Thus, the official claim is that the messages being “made public” were never private in the first place, but instead were conversations that appeared on users’ walls. The recent switch to the Facebook Timeline has confused users into believing those old messages were private.

That’s the official story.

The problem with the Facebook explanation and some of the anti-hoax sites “debunking” these claims is that they don’t take into account the untold numbers of user complaints by people who are certain that private messages were made public. Merely quoting Facebook and a few writers isn’t really “debunking” anything.

Claims that it happened
Read over the comments on this site for a rather large sample of users who say the statement by Facebook is disingenuous. Some users have insisted that they are “sure” that private messages appeared on their timeline.

How to check your timeline
If you want to see where on Facebook others are seeing this problem, go to your timeline and click on the year 2010 to see old posts. You will see a section called “Friends” and something like “172 friends posted on your timeline.” Below that are posts that were made by your friends on your wall in 2010. This author did not find any private messages, but others have been sure that they’ve seen intimate conversations there.

The Rumor
Here is one version of the story as passed around on Facebook:

STOP and read… if there is only ONE post of mine you look at… make it this one. Facebook has f’ed up to the extreme this time… some sort of glitch has moved all private messages from 2010 and earlier -INTO YOUR TIMELINE-… For the world to see… Believe me it isn’t pretty. You can hide those posts from 2010 and before by searching by year on your profile. Good luck… and no… don’t try to look at my profile because I already removed them all. 🙂

And yet another:

Your private inbox messages are now visible for all to see, from 2010 and earlier! This could get VERY awkward, very quickly…this is a new change from Facebook as of yesterday. Don’t believe me? Read your timeline from those years…yikes! They look like wall posts…..they are not!

There’s an easy fix–when you’re in your own timeline, just click on the year on the right (2007, 2008, 2009) and you’ll see a box with a bunch of friends’ messages and a header that says 89 people have written on so and so’s timeline–hover over the right until you see the pencil, click and select hide from timeline. Do that for each year. BOTH parties have to delete or it will show so post and tell your friends.

Bottom Line
We say the jury is still out.

Facebook and other anti-hoax sites claim it never happened. Hundreds, if not thousands of users claim it did. It didn’t happen to this author. There are two possible explanations: Mass confusion by users who don’t remember how Facebook looked and worked a couple years ago, or an attempt to cover up yet another Facebook privacy blunder.

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