No, Your Private Messages Are NOT Public on Facebook

Illustration for article titled No, Your Private Messages Are NOT Public on Facebook

You might have read somewhere today that Facebook made your pre-2009 private messages public on your own Timeline. 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 leak 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 screwup in Facebook's history (a long history of screwups). 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 messaged people in college is still safe, and as shocking as it might have been to see how much of a tool you were five years ago, it's a private shame, not a Timeline humiliation.

Image by Ahmad Faizal Yahya/Shutterstock.



There might be more to the story - Fact: it is making the headlines of multiple famous and serious news media outlets here in France, multiple users reporting having this issue - Fact: 2 out of our 4 household Facebook users accounts have indeed noticed private messages appearing on their (corrected since then). Fact these two accounts were created before 2009.