If you haven’t heard already I’m sure that it won’t come as any great surprise that another controversy with Facebook privacy came to light last week.
This time the issue is private messages showing on users public timeline.
Are they or aren’t they?
Facebook has investigated and they are saying that it isn’t so, with the explanation that wall posts and private messages are two separate systems coded in different languages. However, quite a few users have gone and examined the messages that are showing from their friends and maintain that they were once private messages.
We’ve become much more aware of privacy concerns since the time of these posts (pre-2010), as the Facebook interface has become more and more open. So, whether or not private messages have become public, if there is content on your wall that you don’t want public, now is the time - as Facebook finalizes the Timeline rollout - to hide or delete those posts from your timeline.
The posts in question all seem to be from before 2010, which happens to coincide roughly with the timing of when we went from wall-to-wall conversations to having likes and comments on posts. So, when looking at the Timeline, these posts will already look different.
To hide them, go to the year you want to hide posts from others. You’ll find a box labeled “Friends” with all the posts from your friends for that year (it’s usually right at the top of each year on the right side of your screen. The process is the same for any Timeline story:
I hid the friends box for all years, so all those posts still exist and I can still access them from my Activity Log, which you can get to by clicking the button at the top of your Timeline page.
One other step I took to be certain that private messages wouldn’t be made public was to delete my old private messages.
PLEASE NOTE: Hiding content from your Timeline does not mean it is deleted. It may be viewable in other places on Facebook - a friend’s wall, company page, etc. If you don’t want that content to exist on the live Facebook site anymore, select to delete it.
Regardless of what anyone believes about this particular incident and how it happened, it is disturbing to think that “private” messages are no longer private. But this situation is a very effective reminder that nothing we do on the internet is ever private. It’s important to remember this before posting, because data posted to the internet never truly goes away.
If you have something truly private to say/share with someone, do it via email or text if you have to communicate electronically. Don’t rely on a social network to keep your private business from going public.