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Facebook showing private messages
September 26, 2012 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Facebook showing private messages. Has anyone noticed that PMs are showing up in the timeline? I've personally seen some of my own PMs on a friend's wall. Facebook of course, denies it all.
posted by xmattxfx to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I hate to ask but are you sure you didn't write on your friend's wall and think you were messaging them?

Never seen any such PMs, though of course that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
posted by katrielalex at 6:40 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


You might want to read this.
posted by HuronBob at 6:42 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


katrielalex, due to the nature of one message in particular, I'm quite certain it was a private message. It was the friend whom I had PMed that noticed this though, not I.
posted by xmattxfx at 6:49 AM on September 26, 2012


I can tell you my experience: I delete all of the content on my wall/whatever once a year. I started in 2010 and went back to the beginning. If you went to my Facebook page, you'd see 3 months of stuff and that's it.

Last week sometime, a bunch of old posts that had not been in my feed showed up; most were from 2006-2008. I don't remember if they were private messages or wall posts (although some of it was extremely flirty messages to girls which I don't think I'd have posted publicly, but who knows) but they showed up out of the blue. I had to manually remove or hide every single post.

Considering how meticulous I am about my Facebook page, I didn't just miss hundreds of posts in my multiple culls. They showed up out of nowhere without provocation recently and it is disconcerting. So while they may not be private messages, a switch got flicked somewhere and old content started appearing, and FB has not acknowledged that happened at all which I find unnerving. They were not always visible because I have been trying to delete everything on multiple occasions for years and they were never there.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 6:58 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hacker News dug into this and so far not one person has actually produced a screen shot confirming this. In every case so far, the messages were old wall-to-wall messages, which were never really private.

I'm not saying you are wrong - - but so far every other person has been. If it was really a PM you should have an email for it too. As I understand it, PMs are actually stored in an entirely separate database. If there is a company that would accidently broadcast private messages to the world, Facebook is it. However, in this case the evidence so far is pointing to user confusion, not a Facebook screw up.
posted by COD at 7:00 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if they show up on a wall, they may only show to the intended recipient(s).
posted by mkb at 7:05 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would not be surprised. I had posts from a "private" FB group show up in the feed of people who had me on their close friend list, with very bad fallout. (Group was girlfriends from college, asked advice/vented abt relationship stuff, showed up in my boyfriend's feed. The people in the group, myself inc., had triple checked privacy beforehand, but didn't account for glitch.)
posted by peacrow at 7:40 AM on September 26, 2012


Even if they show up on a wall, they may only show to the intended recipient(s).

I think this might be the case but I am not down with it. AT ALL. I just checked my own account and there are definitely private messages that other people sent to me in my timeline. Which means mine are probably posted on theirs. And that is NOT ok. Not sure what to do about that. So if anyone has any advice, I am also all ears. I'm an 'overemailer' and I cringe to think what might be there.
posted by bquarters at 7:54 AM on September 26, 2012


Seconding bquarters, unfortunately. I was just scrolling through old wall posts (time-consuming!) and found something that definitely looks like a message a friend would NOT have posted publicly ("so and so is cute," when so and so was on Facebook and like not supposed to know, omggggg).
posted by c'mon sea legs at 8:15 AM on September 26, 2012


OK, I know I am paranoid so I checked again and it's possible that I sent PMs but they were responded to on my wall by less privacy-obsessed friends. That's what I'm going with now.
posted by bquarters at 8:16 AM on September 26, 2012


I think a lot of this confusion is that Facebook used to have a 'wall-to-wall' view that was treated as a messaging system but actually was public. When they got rid of that people stopped using wall posts as messages, but the posts I guess remained in the system.
posted by katrielalex at 8:31 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I looked back on my wall and found messages that had been sent privately, however, upon clicking on individual messages, I was taken to a message thread that showed the lock (icon that denotes "only me" privacy level for each one. I don't think other people can see them, even if they are now lumped together with wall posts which are generally public.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, you guys need to produce screenshots ASAP (if it's true). No one has proven that this is anything but old wall posts (back from the wall-to-wall messenging days). If you could produce screenshots it would be a huge deal.
posted by AmandaA at 9:11 AM on September 26, 2012


Over the past 6 months Facebook has been strange and buggy. I had everything hidden and it all came back (wall posts). I also had all of my posts defaulting to Public no matter how many times I emailed Facebook / reset it.
posted by SassHat at 10:59 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


When you hover over the little icon next to the date/timestamp at the top of the post, what does it say? It seems possible that these are in fact locked down to the original people but show up on the timeline.

(Every post should have one of these, ranging from things like Public ; Your Friends ; John Smith & Jane Doe ; etc)
posted by wildcrdj at 3:03 PM on September 26, 2012


When you start a new message, there is a dropdown that makes you pick what kind of message. Private is not the first option.

Also, the timeline you see for yourself is not the timeline other people see. Same with the old wall paradigm. Whether they choose to show you PMs there or on a separate page, it is still their server deciding what you see (and what others don't see).

Finally, it's a website designed for public sharing. In other words, don't use if for anything you wouldn't want accidentally published.
posted by gjc at 6:17 PM on September 26, 2012


Wow, yeah, there are a lot of old wall-to-wall posts showing up for me now from around 2008. That's freaky.
posted by limeonaire at 8:57 PM on September 26, 2012


Yeah, you guys need to produce screenshots ASAP (if it's true). No one has proven that this is anything but old wall posts (back from the wall-to-wall messenging days). If you could produce screenshots it would be a huge deal.

The screen, and thus screenshots, are display messages sent privately as wall-to-wall posts. Unless someone has saved an old email notifying them of the message, there's no way to prove that it was originally a message and not a wall post.
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:07 AM on September 27, 2012


This is both news and apparently not true.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:13 AM on September 29, 2012


Snopes labels this FALSE.

If it were true, you would expect some of the (many) people who are making these claims to take some screen shots of their message archive with the same messages that are appearing on their Timeline. As far as I know, this hasn't happened.

Facebook has made a lot of changes to its interface and privacy settings in the past few years. It's not surprising that some wall posts from several years ago look inappropriate today.
posted by John Cohen at 4:38 PM on September 30, 2012


Hacker News dug into this and so far not one person has actually produced a screen shot confirming this. In every case so far, the messages were old wall-to-wall messages, which were never really private.

Notice that a Facebook employee shows up in that thread to comment:
Hey guys - I work on Timeline here at Facebook and just wanted to chime in here. I've looked into a bunch of cases today where people were concerned their messages were showing up, but as has been pointed out in many places (e.g. techcrunch), there was no privacy violation here.

If you've kept your old emails around (woohoo gmail!), one thing you can do is go back and look for the notification email you got for a particular post that you suspect was a message. There's a date search widget that makes this easier. I suspect you'll find it was a wall post.

Another thing to note (for those that follow our technology), is that the backends for these two systems are entirely different. The messages backend is hbase-backed, designed for real-time communication more than history. The timeline backend is MySQL / C++ backed. Migrating data from hbase to MySQL would have to take months of effort.

I know that even though there was no bug here, this can be an alarming experience to see old posts surfaced like this. We're working on ways to make this interaction clearer so people aren't so surprised in the future. That said, please rest assured that your inbox is not on your timeline.
posted by John Cohen at 4:45 PM on September 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


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