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Facebook private messages gone public: Would you panic?

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Facebook has been summoned by the French government to provide an explanation for the 'privacy breach' but the company says there has been none

September 25, 2012 2:50 by



The century old argument of ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to be nervous about’ is really starting to wear thin, particularly with Facebook users. What would you do if two years worth of privately sent messages were suddenly published on the public newsfeed for everyone to see? It’s a scary thought to many, as Kipp would imagine, and having something to hide has little to do with it.

At any rate, that was the question that many unknowing France-based users were slapped with when (allegedly) years worth of private messages were publicly revealed.

Kipp sticks to “allegedly” because while many users swiftly jumped to their Twitter accounts, comment sections and assorted blogs to declare and swear that it did in fact happen, Facebook’s management insist that after a thorough inspection, they conclusively discovered that it was merely public posts from years ago, not private messages. But Kipp wonders, does that really make it any less of a shocking violation?

A small number of users raised concerns after what they 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,” said Facebook in an email statement.

While the multi-billion dollar company appears to be satisfied, doesn’t the fact that Facebook managers were summoned by the French government give more validity or body to this alleged rumour? The government demanded ‘clear and transparent explanations without delay’.

But, that isn’t even the point is it? Two years ago, security features that exist on the social media site now didn’t then, nor was there a timeline template or the option of sharing specific posts only with specific people. All those features had rolled in because of user demand, ironically. So if years worth of posts were suddenly rehashed and made visible to everyone on your current list, how can the company still stand by their ‘no breach of user privacy’ statement?

Sure, one may have made some public posts years ago, but a lot of things could and probably did change since then. The number of friends on a person’s list, people that he/she perhaps wouldn’t want to read said posts, etc. In a nutshell, taking a post, public or not, produced explicitly or implicitly out of its context, is still seen by many as a violation of social norms.

Do you think this is an overreaction from the users’ part or do you feel that, whether it was private messages or public posts, it is a breach of privacy?



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