Is Facebook Breaching Your Privacy?

How many of your friends (or even you..?) have posted a privacy warning about Facebook on your wall, either hoping it will protect you legally from breaches, or as a warning that Facebook has leaked all of your private messages from the past?

If you’ve seen these floating around, relax –none of them are true!
The most recent scare is regarding the ‘leaking’ of private messages from around 2007 -2009 on your timeline wall. Yes, when you scroll back that far, the posts do seem to be personal-ish in nature, but it’s actually user psychology fooling you.

Do you remember what Facebook looked like in 2007? 2008 or 2009? I didn’t think so. You weren’t able to comment on status updates, and if you wanted to reply to a status update, you had to click the ‘wall to wall’ commenting feature, which in effect was simply writing a message on one person’s wall. Now that Facebook has more commenting features, converting those old status updates simply do look like a string of messages to specific people. Don’t believe me? If you’ve saved any of your private messages from back then, go ahead and compare what is on your timeline publicly to what you have in your private messages area.

walls. by Lolalalaina, on Flickr

Old Facebook Wall

When online properties such as Facebook change over time, it’s normal for the intentions of the users to change too. A message to a friend on their wall in the old days wouldn’t have shown up in any ‘news feed’ and in all likelihood would never have been seen by anyone but them, is now available for all to see on your timeline. Facebook has always had a private messaging area so in reality, the onus is on the user. Facebook has released a statement explaining that the private messages and wall posts have ‘always been separate systems’ and couldn’t have been confused by engineers.

“Every report we’ve seen, we’ve gone back and checked. We haven’t seen one report that’s been confirmed [of a private message being exposed]. A lot of the confusion is because before 2009 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.]”  Statement from Facebook, given to TechCrunch 

Nowadays Facebook is used for publicity, charity awareness, sharing photos and life events, as well as advertising. Now that advertising is thrown into the mix, the issue of privacy has reached new heights. While Facebook has never sold personal user data, think of the actions you do when logged in. You publically ‘like’ businesses, items, brands etc. When using Facebook ads, advertisers can make sure that people who ‘like’ a certain page see their ad more often, target by age and location etc. This is the ‘price’ you pay to use a free product, and you can leave whenever you want, or hang around and just don’t click on ads.

Last year, and earlier this year – people were posting what they thought was a ‘legal’ disclaimer, prohibiting Facebook from using their data, or sharing their personal info. If anyone doing this had any common sense, they’d realise that no laws work that way, and that all the notice was doing, is making them look silly and paranoid.

While it’s not silly or paranoid to want increased privacy, or even the privacy you were ‘promised’ by a social network, please remember that it is called ‘social’ on purpose. You can refuse a friend request or block other users etc, just as you would turn away someone you didn’t know in a bar. All I’m saying is, do a tiny bit of research before you fill your wall with spam disclaimers and so called ‘legal’ notes. Say cool.

See snopes.com for more Facebook privacy hoaxes

Author: 

Rebecca has worked in marketing for 6 years and in online marketing and copy-writing for the last 3. Some of her likes include: Spelling tests, burgers, the dentist and watching the look on people's faces when she reveals her weird dentist fetish.

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