Facebook denies revealing private messages

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Facebook has denied reports that users' private messages from several years ago have been appearing on their public timeline.

A large number of users, mostly in France, have been complaining to the company, there have been reports in major newspapers, and the French government has demanded an explanation.

However, there have also been a smaller number of similar reports from the UK and US. In all cases, the users say that the messages concerned date from 2007 or later.

But Facebook says it's checked every single incident, and claims that the messages concerned, while indeed old, were originally posted on the user's wall, rather than being private messages.

"A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline," Facebook told Agence France-Presse.

"Our engineers investigated these reports and found that the messages were older wall posts that had always been visible on the users’ profile pages."

According to the company, wall posts and messages are separate systems, and there's no way that the two could become mixed up.

One probable reason for the confusion is that, back in 2007, the comments feature and Like button hadn't yet been introduced. Wall posts were used far more widely for conversation and some users may have mistakenly used them rather than private messages.

The reason the problem's surfaced now, and in France, may be because this is the country where Timeline has most recently been pushed out universally.

Most users seem now to accept Facebook's explanation. Says one on Twitter: "The biggest problem with the Facebook 'bug' is that the French still look like c***s to the entire world."