Despite Facebook’s assurances that private messages sent between you and your friends were not posted on peoples walls, some users still insist that they are seeing private messages on their timelines.
The furore started late last month when some Facebook users reported that they were seeing private messages on their timelines from between 2007 and 2009.
Facebook sought to quell these claims by suggesting that its users had misunderstood what had happened and that had been “no breach of user privacy”:
“A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline,” the company said in an email statement. “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.”
South African-based SEO agency Synergize however today claims to have done a case study of 35 Facebook users, who were active between 2007-2009. Around 24 of them, it says, had inbox messages on their timeline.
In the wake of this research, the agency claims that a number of the people involved deactivated their Facebook accounts.
“Because this is shared between two people, there is a good chance that this information is live on others’ walls,” says Synergize CEO Shaune Jordaan. If these really are inbox messages, “Facebook would be facing a massive problem,” he says.
He points out that it would be in breach of a statement in Facebook’s own guidelines: “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.”
Jordaan reckons that the social networking giant owes its users an apology, especially given the implications of allowing people to view private messages in public:
While I can’t imagine that Facebook would expect people to ensure they “switched on” this security setting, I would still think that Facebook would step up to the plate and admit, “hey, we stuffed up.” Till this second, there has been no formal apology for the blatant and unethical breach of privacy from the social networking site.
While some people just have the odd private message between friends displayed, this “revealing to the world”, exposes private details such as bank details, salary information and perhaps even murder plots. I would be interested to see how many people deregistered from Facebook or plan to – while glitches happen, it’s not OK if that glitch reveals your privacy on a site that relies on your trust to aid in their success.
“There’s still time to fix it, he says, “Mark Zuckerberg needs to come out publicly about this. We (well most of us) all trust Facebook because we love it. However, this error is a serious concern”.
Memeburn staffers report that their inbox messages have also been appearing on their timelines. Messages that were in their inboxes appeared to have been duplicated, at least in part, on their timelines.