Can Users See Old Private Messages on their Timelines?
Has Facebook been posting your old private messages as wall posts in what would be a massive privacy breach, or have Facebook users forgotten how cavalier they were with their privacy all those years ago?
If you hearing rumours like the ones below on Facebook, then you’re not alone.
“Facebook is publishing your old private messages as public wall posts. I’m a digital marketing manager, so if i say it’s true, it is.
Go back in your timeline to 2007 or so onwards.
See that box that says ‘X people have posted on NAME timeline’ – hit ‘Hide from Timeline’
Dear Facebookers – Your private inbox messages are now visible for all to see… . 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 2000’s…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 Brian’s timeline–hover over the right until you see the pencil, click and select hide from timeline. do that for each year. This is for real friends. (Post this so all your friends can update theirs as well!)
The Facebook community is once again in uproar over what appears to be the latest privacy controversy to hit the social networking site. But is everything as it seems, and is Facebook really to blame here?
Okay, so I did what almost every technology blogger has been doing today. Going over archaic wall posts from many moons ago, to see if my private messages of yonder were being published on my timeline for all my friends to see.
And what I found was astonishing.
Astonishing because my initial reaction was that the privacy breach had actually occurred. What I saw before me were posts (both from me and friends) that I would never consider for a second to publish onto my timeline. We’re talking about postal addresses, cell phone numbers, holiday plans and other personal details that would have any would-be identity fraudster rolling on the floor in hysterics. These must have been private messages… right?
But when I thought about it a little longer, I realised that these wall posts, available to all my friends, were not private messages on the loose at all, they were actually wall posts! It appears my initial reaction to what I was seeing is one that has been shared by many other Facebook users – the problem being that way back in 2007-2008, when Facebook was still very much a novelty, privacy was simply not as important as it is today, and our digital inhibitions seemed to be very much lower in relation to what we were willing to post onto the website. Stuff my friends and I posted 6 years ago would be considered today to be unfathomably stupid, on many different social and privacy levels.
This was back in the day where Facebook comments and “Likes” did not exist, and users would communicate wall-to-wall, swapping ends of the conversation, making many older wall posts appear like the to-and-fro you would expect with private messages.
But were we really thinking about the privacy consequences when we did this? Before we realised just how long Facebook was here to stay and how big a part it would end up playing in our lives.
Now whilst I may have come to terms with my naïve 2007-self, many Facebook users seem incredibly adamant that they have indeed seen their private messages displayed on their timelines from all those years back, even though Facebook have now completely dismissed any notion that there was any privacy breach.
So what is happening? Are Facebook covering up their mistakes? Perhaps many users, new at the time to Facebook, believed they were sending private messages to each other when they were actually swapping wall posts, and now the past has come back to haunt them. Perhaps some Facebook users are overestimating their memories? What do you think? Personally I’m leaning towards the latter. I can barely remember what or how I was posting last month, let alone 5 or 6 years ago. And when I first joined Facebook and began to swap wall posts with friends, was I really aware of the privacy ramifications to an online social world that was totally unfamilliar to me? No, not really. And it seems that I was not alone.
Either way, despite the controversy these rumours have caused, one good thing has come out of all this. Thousands of Facebook users worldwide are going over their old messages and hiding away embarrassing and potentially troublesome wall posts, and creating a safer Facebook along the way.
UPDATE: Yes we have released a sequel article to this post which you can visit here – Facebook Private Messages on Timeline Scare – How did it Garner so much Panic?
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