Private Facebook messages posted on public walls in France; now in U.S.

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It may be the biggest privacy scandal in the history of a social media giant — one that has seen its fair share of privacy scandals before.

That’s what several French newspapers were reporting on Monday. According to the Metro newspaper, private messages sent between Facebook users are now showing up on public walls.

At first, the newspaper reported, only messages between 2007 and 2009 were showing up publicly. Later, the newspaper reported no messages were safe. As of 11:59 p.m., TechCrunch was reporting that the issue is now starting to affect Facebook accounts in the United States. 

The messages are apparently appearing directly on users’ Facebook walls and in the box on the right sidebar of most pages that reads: “[#] friends posted on [user]’s timeline.” Metro initially reported that the issue did not appear to be systematic and that it affected only certain accounts. It was unclear if this reported security breach has the potential to become systematic

Shortly after 1 p.m., Facebook told CNN there has not been a breach in its privacy security. 

Continue to follow this post below in our “live blog” tool for the latest on this developing story.

Will C. Holden September 24, 20123:17 pm

We’ll continue to monitor this developing story throughout the day, but it appears the updates are winding down. Here’s the last one we will post — with the information coming from the Huffington Post:

“A Facebook rep contacted CNET to deny the rumor that the Timeline was exposing private messages. ‘Every report we’ve seen, we’ve gone back and checked,’ the spokesperson told CNET. ‘We haven’t seen one report that’s been confirmed. A lot of the confusion is because before 2008 there were no likes and no comments on wall posts. People went back and forth with wall posts instead of having a conversation.'”

Will C. Holden September 24, 20122:19 pm

This report was just published by Forbes writer Kashmir Hill:

“I talked to one New York-based journalist who is convinced this happened to him, despite Facebook’s denial. He says the messages exposed were of a ‘very private nature,’ including one from 2009 sent while he was in university. In it, a friend is making a disparaging comment about a classmate with whom they were working on a project. That classmate was among his Facebook friends, and would have been able to see it, so that journalist is convinced the comment would not have been made publicly.”

Will C. Holden September 24, 20121:50 pm

Facebook also advises users doubting their word that similar rumors surfaced in 2011, were “extensively investigated” and proven to be untrue.

Will C. Holden September 24, 20121:48 pm

Facebook told the BBC that French users were simply seeing “older wall posts that had always been visible on the users’ profile pages.”

Will C. Holden September 24, 20121:43 pm

Despite public statements made by Facebook, an unnamed French rep for Facebook told the Huffington Post that the privacy bug does exist and that a technical team in France is investigating the problem.

Will C. Holden September 24, 20121:42 pm

Several French newspapers have provided a quick fix for this privacy bug, telling users to edit the privacy options on individual posts by clicking the “pencil” icon that appears at the top right of posts.

From the ensuing drop-down menu that appears, users can choose to hide a particular post from the Timeline or delete the post altogether.

Will C. Holden September 24, 20121:33 pm

Again, according to TechCrunch.com, this privacy glitch may have become an issue today because of the global roll out of Facebook’s timeline layout.

The last country where the timeline changes were made was France, and that’s where these privacy issues were first reported.

Will C. Holden September 24, 20121:26 pm

This is what a Facebook spokesperson has just told TechCrunch.com:

“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.”

Still, TechCrunch.com is reporting that users in the U.S. are still complaining that messages written as recently as last year have appeared on public walls.


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