Earlier today, Techcrunch wrote a post with the headline, “Facebook Users Report Seeing Old Private Messages Showing Up On Timelines As ‘Posted By Friends.’” (The story and headline have since been updated.) The story sourced three French newspapers that reported the same thing was happening across the pond. While TechCrunch’s Colleen Taylor didn’t confirm the reports outright, she did write, “Anecdotally, this appears to be true, at least for me — I am currently seeing what appear to have been private messages on friends’ Timelines. My own Timeline also now is showing pre-2009 direct messages. Not all users, however, are seeing the bug.”
Pretty scandalous stuff, right? The only problem is, it’s not true. The confusion stemmed from the fact that, before 2009, it was common for users to interact with one another over “wall-to-wall” conversations, as opposed to private messages or comment threads like they do today. Thanks to Timeline, these old “wall-to-wall” interactions are now easier than ever to find (just like your old college pics, which were always there but hard-to-find until Timeline put them just a few scrolls away). Gizmodo’s Sam Biddle may have put it best when he Tweeted, “people are just shortsighted. our privacy tolerance is in such flux we’re outraged by things we ourselves did.”
So it’s all much ado about nothing. But it did sound true, didn’t it? After all, it seems like not a week goes by without a fresh Facebook privacy scandal.
Just earlier today, the Financial Times reported that Facebook is partnering with a controversial data company to monitor its user’s purchases — Maybe Facebook planted the private message reports to distract the public from the real story? Oops, now I’m the paranoid one.
With 59 percent of Facebook’s 900 million users saying they have little to no trust in the social network to keep their information private, it wasn’t difficult for an unconfirmed scandal to take hold, feeding off the public’s inherent mistrust and shifting attitudes about privacy. In fact, quite a few high profile names came to believe that their private messages had been sprayed all over their public wall despite evidence to the contrary. Here’s how it all went down on Twitter, that place you go when you want to complain about Facebook.
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