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Are private Facebook messages becoming public?

Facebook says that if you can comment on or Like an activity, then it is a wall post and not a private message.

Story highlights

  • Some users say old private Facebook messages are appearing on their Timelines
  • Facebook: these messages are actually just older wall posts
  • Social network says two separate systems make such a bug unlikely

Rumors of a Facebook bug has users from all over the world worried about private messages showing up very publicly on Timeline pages. But the social network is debunking those claims, saying these messages are actually just older wall posts.

A series of reports coming out of France — including ones from Metro France and Le Nouvel Observateur — claim that Facebook members who sent private messages over the past few years have been popping up on public posts.

Some members in the U.S. have said their private messages from 2007 and 2008 are showing up on their Timeline, but Facebook told Mashable that the company hasn't found a bug and believes the discrepancy comes from a wider roll out of the newer Timeline layout on a global scale.

Facebook says that if you can comment or Like that activity, then it is a wall post and not a private message. In the past, users weren't able to comment and Like posts, so Facebook believes members new to Timeline are confusing old posts for private messages.

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"A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline," Fred Wolens of Facebook Policy Communications said in a statement. "Our engineers investigated these reports and found that the messages were older wall posts that had always been visible on the users' profile pages. Facebook is satisfied that there has been no breach of user privacy."

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UPDATE: When asked if such a bug were possible, Wolens responded: "While not quite a technical impossibility, these systems are run on two separate backends which would require a non-trivial amount of work for this bug to be real."

We have been unable to confirm any case where private information has been leaked.

For those worried that they may be subject to a bug, users can set all wall posts to only friends or just to themselves, and also hide the activity.