“This could get VERY awkward, very quickly”: Facebook, you’ve done it again. Or have they?
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Possibly millions of Facebook users now believe their private messages sent prior to 2009 have inadvertently been posted to user Timelines and are visible on their public profile pages.
The issue, reported in France early last week, has been floating about the Internet for days after Facebook made a format change, rolling out Timeline feature globally.
But the belief the network has exposed users’ private inbox messages is catching on like wildfire.
Several Aussie Facebookers told SmartHouse they have become aware of the issue in the past week.
One Facebook user said him and his colleagues were notified by their IT department at a well known Aussie company about the apparent privacy leak, last week.
“Suddenly, everyone was in a panic and scrambling to change their privacy settings and deleting old ‘messages,’ ” he said.
“Tonnes of my mates private messages are now published on their timelines.So Crazy! ” another avid Facebook user told us today.
Another slammed the alleged ‘messages’ leak as a “gross invasion of privacy.”
Here is the full text of a messages doing the rounds on Facebook by one distruntled user:
“Dear Facebookers – 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! And if you’re my friend, please do this to keep my stuff private – thanks.”
So, apparently, the damage can be limited if you go to your timeline account settings, click on the year and hit ‘hide’ for every year to stop all your ‘messages’ becoming public fodder.
Facebook, however, deny there has been any privacy glitch saying users are getting confused between the old public wall posts (back in the days when there was no ‘likes’ or ‘comments’) and private messages.
“Every report we’ve seen, we’ve gone back and checked. We haven’t seen one report that’s been confirmed. A lot of the confusion is because before 2009 there were no likes and no comments on wall posts. People went back and forth with wall posts instead of having a conversation [in the comments of single wall post],” The Social Network told TechCrunch.
“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.”
“The change appears to be Facebook consolidating messages into users’ timelines,” rather than a rather than a mega privacy breach, social media expert James Griffin of SR7 told SmartHouse.
“However, the change has made people confused and pretty upset as the messages are all now in one place in the timeline rather than on the user’s wall.”
However, it’s a “grey area” Griffin admits, as although the messages may have been semi-private tucked away on a wall that is constantly updating they were “certainly not private inbox messages,” he believes.
“At the end of the day, people have been taken by surprise and it shows how sensitive users can be about how messages are made available.”
The Social Network with its 955 million users should let people know what changes are being made, in order to avoid future outcry of this kind, Griffin believes.
“All social media have had their fair share of privacy hick ups, but the more information users leave online, the expectation is the platform will take care of this information, when this is not always the case…. “
But to quell the din from its user community Facebook has just released its “redesigned help centre” for its millions of users.
“Today Facebook launched a newly redesigned Help Centre to make it easier for users to find information they need about how Facebook works. This new interface allows users to find answers to their Facebook questions in fewer clicks and surfaces important and relevant information.”
Hmm. We’re not quite convinced.