Sent to you by Chris Hunter via Google Reader:
One of Facebook's biggest problems is that they have on several occasions managed to change privacy settings so drastically that the general public has lost faith in them. To make things doubly difficult for Facebook, they have helped foster the idea that word-of-mouth recommendations from your Facebook friends are more valuable than the information you get from elsewhere.
So, for most people, it's easier to believe an upset Facebook post from a friend or acquaintance than it is to believe that Facebook are doing the right thing. I think you shot yourself in the foot there, Facebook.
The latest scare doing the rounds is that Facebook has made public all of your private messages from the early days of Facebook. Many people are updating their statuses with horrified concern and advice on how to fix the problem. Meanwhile, the official reports in the media have been swinging both ways on whether it's Facebook's fault or user error. It's no surprise people are confused about the whole thing.
The Problem: Private Messages Seem To Be Made Public
Many users are reporting that "private messages on Facebook have been made public". More specifically, these seem to be messages sent and received between 2007 and 2010. The reports first surfaced in the French media and were very quickly picked up by the media in the rest of the world. Every time a reporter wanted to verify the facts, there were always at least a few people they knew who were shocked to find certain messages appearing publicly on their walls. Thus, the story spread like wildfire, both virally and in the media.
Facebook's Initial Response: No Private Messages Were Made Public
Facebook have stated from the start that no private messages were made public. They claim that the people who were surprised at what they saw in their timelines were actually looking at back-and-forth wall posts which were made at a time when that was the normal way to communicate on Facebook and most people weren't worried about their privacy settings.
"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." – Facebook.
The folks at Gizmodo actually put it really well:
"It turns out that no messages were leaked—people just can't remember what the hell they were saying years ago. We talk differently on Facebook now. This is really fascinating! Wall posts from 2008—which were always public—looked like something you might say privately today. We were more intimate, more formal, more message-y."
Facebook's Additional Response: We've Changed How Old Content Is Displayed
This fear of private Facebook messages going public led to a huge amount of negative media and status updates, despite Facebook's denial. So, in order to try to make things right, Facebook say they have now made a few changes to how old wall posts are displayed on the timeline.
"We've made several improvements to the way older content is displayed on timeline to make the audience and other information clearer" – Facebook.
What You Can Do To Ensure Your Posts Are Private
Regardless of whether Facebook was in the wrong or not, your old wall post conversations might well be more public than you previously thought – and the new Timeline layout makes it really easy for people to find them. You might want to see what's lurking in your old posts and sort them out.
Limit who can read your wall posts by clicking the down arrow in the top-right of Facebook, then choosing "Privacy Settings" and "Edit settings" from next to the "Timeline and Tagging" section. In the section marked "Who can see what others post in your timeline?" you can quickly change it to "friends" or a custom setting such as "Close Friends" or "Just me".
While you're there, you could also limit who can see your timeline to just "Friends" to be on the safe side.
Delete or limit who can see your old wall posts individually by either browsing your Timeline by year or looking through your activity log. To do this, head to your profile and either click on the years or click on "Activity Log". For either method, you can delete or change the privacy by clicking in the right-hand corner of the post. They're slightly different, but either method will allow you to see what's there and make changes.
If you're now ready to read more about your Facebook privacy, check out these posts:
- The Top 5 Privacy Tips For Facebook Timeline Applications
- How To Remove Spam Apps & Ensure App Privacy [Weekly Facebook Tips]
- ROUNDUP: 5 Must-Know Critical Facebook Privacy Tips
- Using Facebook Friends Lists For Interests Or Circles [Facebook Hack Or Tip Of The Week]
- 3 Things You Need To Know About Photo Tagging In Facebook
Have you noticed any of your old messages/wall posts are more public than you thought?