Privacy on Facebook almost seems to be oxymoronic. As a social networking site, Facebook has made our lives very public, and while there may be those who do not mind sharing such information, others may not be as forthcoming. Of course, in this regard, the site offers numerous privacy settings that allow users to control just how much information they share. But analysts and watchdogs have called for even greater measures to protect the privacy of users; this was seen when the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland issued certain recommendations last year to the social networking site to increase user data protection, and most recently Facebook acted upon this, suspending the photo-tagging option in Europe.
Of course, while the move was welcomed, a more pressing issue had arisen recently when it was alleged that users’ private messages were on appearing on their public timelines. According to reports, it was alleged by users in France that private messages that had been written by users between 2007 and 2009 were apparently made public and to appear on users’ timelines as messages posted by friends. In one user testimony, an owner of a fashion social network wrote, "There are messages I've got on my wall that are most definitely private messages! From 2006 all the way up to 2012. I'm 100% sure by content and from memory. And also some posts on my wall were clearly beginnings of (private) group [messages]."
Similar stories were reported by numerous users, with some being from the U.S., and as the news was picked up, it quickly spread across social media. Facebook was quick to respond to the rumors as being “false.” In a statement, the social networking site said, “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.”
In addition to this, an inside source at the company told the BBC that it was very unlikely that such a mix-up had occurred and that there was "no way" that public and private data had been mixed up. The source stressed that "no mechanisms" existed at Facebook that would lead to private messages being made public, and that even though similar rumors had surfaced last year, the site had conducted "extensive investigation" in this regard and found no such breach.