Relax, Your Private Facebook Messages Have Not Been Made Public

You might have read somewhere today that Facebook made your pre-2009 private messages public on your own Timeline today. And on your friends' Timelines! This would be a huge scandal, except it's not true at all.

Facebook, in a statement to the BBC, immediately denied the entire thing after it started to make the rounds:

"A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline. 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."

If private messages actually went public, it would probably be the largest screw-up in Facebook's history (a long history of screw-ups). It wouldn't have issued a denial, with such confidence, so quickly.

It turns out that no messages were leaked -- people just can't remember what the hell they were saying years ago. We talk differently on Facebook now. This is really fascinating! Wall posts from 2008 -- which were always public -- looked like something you might say privately today. We were more intimate, more formal, more message-y. We used salutations (!). But if you check for that message in your actual private message inbox, it won't be there. Because there was no privacy breach.

You might be spooked at how different you were back then, and Timeline makes it extremely easy to reflect in this unsettling way, but your lame-o wall laundry has been out to dry on Facebook in one form or another since the day you wrote it.

So put down the defibrillator. Everything is OK. The horrible awful stuff you said is still safe. As shocking as it might have been to see how terrible you were five years ago, it's a private shame, not a Timeline humiliation.

Image: Ahmad Faizal Yahya/Shutterstock.



    another reason to go back to basics (eg. using a trusted email or using other chat software). you will never know what facebook will do to your messages and chat..

      Because there was NOT a privacy issue, you should leave it? How does that even?

    Or, you can use facebook because all your friends and family are already on it. Don't update wall posts or anything. Just use it for it's messaging/chat functions, and to see what other people are doing... You don't have to use every single aspect of the service or fill in every bit of detail, you just use what you are comfortable with.

    Anyone who trusts Facebook is a fool. Pure and simple. And it's only going to get worse as they desperately try to catch up and squeeze users for cash.

      Anyone who trusts the internet is a fool. Some information is harmless to share over the internet, but everyone is different and the information matters differently to some. My only advise is do what you're comfortable with. After all, to create a facebook account, you only need the same details you use in every other website. What you do after that is up to you. Obviously you wouldn't share your address, phone numbers, credit card numbers etc. publicly. The only other excuse to be that scared of facebook, is if you want to be open to commit a future crime without a trail.

    Sorry but there were convos on my timeline that were obviously private messages. There were a bunch there that I specifically remember being private messages and not posted to my wall.

    There absolutely WERE private messages displayed on my timeline. Lying about it isn't going to make it go away.

      there DEFINITELY were private messages on my timeline! I SAW THEM and had to HIDE them as that instructional post advised. So effed up.

    I just checked my facebook. All my Private message were displayed. Why are they lying about it, when the proof is on everyone's timeline??!?!?

    Remember back then you couldn't just comment back on a wall post/status update like we can now. You had to actually go to that persons wall to respond. Also back then you couldn't see wall posts in real time like we can now, only status updates. So when people make wall posts now they are more aware that everyone can see everything. So it looks like they are private messages, but its really just wall posts.

    I had friends private messages displayed as wall posts by friends on my timeline when i checked and have now hidden them.

    Nice try Facebook.. remember how you made it impossible to delete private messages? Good one, because I'm not the only person to find PRIVATE messages on my wall. I checked, they were never wall posts, they were PRIVATE messages. And as a result I have had to hide all wall posts by friends, including birthday wishes and things I wanted on my wall, because your crappy software can't distinguish between private messages that I cannot delete and wall posts. At least 15 friends also verified that so-called wall posts were actually PRIVATE messages. You see Facebook, we aren't stupid, we can actually go into our messages and check. Epic Fail.

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    This is statement is true, but Facebook is not safe if your friends visit your timeline or vice versa in my opinion. If you go to your own timeline, it will show your private messages. Try going to a friends profile page and scroll down to lets say 2009, you will see how many friends posted on their timeline, all you will see is posts to their wall & not their private messages. But I personally feel that we SHOULD NOT be able to see what their friends personally post on their timelines. So Facebook should alter this feature

    yep, private messages were viewable on my wall by me and my husband via his account and I could see his from my account when I followed the prompts in the message. How is that not a breach of privacy? Not just for 2009 or older posts, but for 2009-2012 too.

    I have checked and double checked and the "posts" that were displayed on my wall as old wall posts were definately old messages...what the hell facebook!

    Congratulations on towing the party line without actually investigating the story. A number of my friends and I have private messages apearing on our walls. These were not wall posts previously but were one on one messages.

    sorry fb but 4 of my private inbox messages did appear. they were personal & sensitive but did not affect anyone but me. however, in all those lists it was only 4. for now i am prepared to accept this as a glitch

    Do I have any messages from Alina Estban from Australia?

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