Facebook Private Messages Exposed? Company Denies Bug Allowing People To Read Private Messages On Walls

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FACEBOOK PRIVATE MESSAGES EXPOSED
Facebook appears to have a bug that is causing private messages users sent years ago to appear on their public timeline. | AP

Facebook appears to have a bug that is causing private messages users sent — some years ago — to appear on their public timeline.

Facebook users at The Huffington Post noticed the phenomenon on Monday morning. According to TechCrunch, the glitch affects messages from 2009 and earlier.

UPDATE II: Tech blog TechCrunch says it has run an analysis on claims Facebook users are seeing their private messages appearing on public pages, and says there is nothing to the claim:

Our Facebook specialist Josh Constine found that email receipts show allegedly exposed messages were in fact wall posts, and the posts do not appear in users’ Facebook Messages inbox. Facebook also says in no uncertain terms that there is absolutely no privacy bug. What people are seeing are old Wall postings, not private messages.

UPDATE: Facebook insists that users are mistaken to think private messages are showing in their profile timelines. A Facebook spokesperson told Gawker on Monday afternoon that users are confusing the wall-to-wall conversations they used to have in the early days of Facebook with private conversations, which became more popular in recent years.

"Every report we've seen, we've gone back and checked," Gawker quoted the spokesperson as saying. "We haven't seen one report that's been confirmed [of a private message being exposed]. 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 [in the comments of single wall post.]"

Facebook denied on Monday that there was a wide-spread security glitch. In comments emailed to The Huffington Post Canada, a Facebook spokesperson stated:

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.

However, Facebook users in North America and Europe were reporting instances of exposed private messages.

The messages appear in the "Friends" box in Facebook's timeline. Ordinarily, the box would show publicly posted messages on a Facebook user's wall for that year or month, but in some cases, users are seeing private messages appearing.

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How To Fix Facebook Private Messages Appearing In Timeline
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Here's how to fix the problem:

-- Click on a month or year in the timeline list on the right side of your Facebook profile.
-- Find the "Friends" box
-- Hover over the gray area at the top of the box until a tool icon appears
-- In the tool icon's drop-down menu, choose "Hide from Timeline"
-- Repeat for every "Friends" box in your timeline

However, this will probably not remove any private messages of yours that are appearing on other people's Facebook pages. To be sure, we recommend erasing any messages in your Facebook account that you think may be appearing on other people's profiles.

Facebook shares were down 9.3 per cent, to $20.74, as of 2 p.m. ET Monday, though that likely wasn't because of news of the security problem. It was likely because of an analysis by Barron's over the weekend that said Facebook stock was overpriced, and pegged its long-term value at $15.

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