Facebook bug posts private messages on your wall

We know that there have been reports by Snopes and TechCrunch over the last few days that the Facebook bug posting your old private messages on your wall is a hoax, but just this morning we found a few of our own very personal messages from 2010 and earlier posted for everyone to see. {updated with greater detail}


Here’s a private message exchange on a visible timeline: 

Facebook posting private messages on wall


Here’s more of the private message conversation, now public: 



Facebook posting private messages on wall


These now public posts are missing from our private message box, and they do not conform to the usual format of wall posts and responses found on friendship pages. We are confident they were previously not public, and they were never originally posted on our wall. 

Until all this is confirmed we say better to be safe than sorry, so here’s how you can see if Facebook has made some of your private messages public and learn how to quickly hide them.

1. Go to your Timeline

2. Click 2010 (and then earlier) from the right side

3. Look at “Friends 2010: # friends posted on Your Name’s timeline”

4. Hover or click the pencil (depending on your computer)

5. Select Hide From Timeline

(Repeat for previous years)

Keep in mind, we’re not seeing every single private message we sent, but there were definitely a few mixed in with the public wall posts. And while it might be tough for people to find them, we’re pretty sure you wouldn’t want your private messages made public at all. That’s why they’re called “private messages,” right? Here’s hoping they fix this bug fast. -Kristen & Liz

EDITED TO ADD: We also recommend that you grab a screenshot of any errant private messages, for documentation. Good luck. 

Another editor’s note: Your private messages may show up in your friend’s timeline and your friends’ DMs may show up in your timeline. And you will need to ask them to delete them. 

To check to see if your conversation is indeed public, go to their page and click the settings icon. Then hit “See Friendship” and it will show you all your public interactions, which we’re now noticing may have been previously private. 

{Thanks for the heads up, Kara!}


–EDITED 9/29–

If you can add any value or offer other information in a civil, calm, fact-based way you are welcome to comment. Disparaging remarks of any stripe will be deleted immediately. Welcome to our community. It’s always been a respectful one and we’d like to keep it that way.

Cool Mom Staff

We spend our time looking for cool stuff so you don't have to. Hope this one fits the bill.

53 Comments

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Jim Quenneville

    Thanks for the tips. We have been monitoring this closely ourselves. So far we have not had any problems.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Beth

    I am not sure what you are describing really means that people can see it on your timeline. You need your friends to confirm that this is the case. You can see everything. When I did what you were describing and then went to manage it they message specifically said that whatever I am seeing does not mean that my friends can see it, and that I have the ability to turn on or off these messages.

    Still I understand the frustration, because I have always kept messages separate from wall posts, so why would they ever think I would want to put a message on my timeline. If I wanted to share it with everyone or didn’t care I would have posted on the wall.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Two under two

    Thank you so much for this. Sure enough, some messages I’m pretty sure weren’t meant for public consumption were found on my 2009 timeline.

    Yikes! Like Facebook really needed another shot in its own foot?

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Outsmarts

    Your instructions are simple and easy to follow. There were lots of messages on my wall. Thanks for sharing. Hopefully Facebook fixes this soon.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Lee

    Are the private messages showing up only in 2010 or in other years too?

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    Hi Beth, indeed it was Kristen seeing posts on my own timeline that she knew were private and reading them back to me that let me know I had to go through my wall. Bummer right? It’s definitely public. -Liz

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    For the most part it seems to be 2010 and earlier although we have seen a few from 2011.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Ashlee

    My 2010 was fine, hid it anyway, since I didn’t want to read all 257 posts. My 2009 was not, it was almost all private messages. Ahhh. Going back further now.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    smilingchaos

    Funny that every time I try to post that you are wrong it won’t let me. Something fishy going on here….

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    We haven’t seen any of your comments go through at all – apologies for any technical difficulties. If your account was unaffected, then congratulations! We (and many of our readers) wish we were in your shoes.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    smilingchaos

    This probably won’t post either, but let me just point out that the very fact that you could not cross reference these apparent private message leaks with your inbox messages proves they were not private message to begin with. Memory is selective and rarely accurate. Facebook provided plenty of information to its users regarding timeline and gave everyone a full week if not more to go through all their old psot and edit accordingly. It’s the people that did not bother to do that that are getting these surprises

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Liz

    Weird! I didn’t see any messages from me, but I do see some that I’m pretty sure were private messages from other people on there. Thanks for the tips on how to fix it!

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Andrea Gardner

    This happened to me when I first switched to Timeline. I was thankful I had a week to view everything before others could see it. I am rechecking again JIC. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    michelle

    If you look at those messages you will see a little lock icon. When you hover over it is says “only me” I logged into my husband’s account and they were not visible at all.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Kelly Dwyer

    “The worst is that there are actually people defending Facebook on something that is this obvious and in other words treating other people like they are dumb and did not know how to use facebook in 2009.
    There is nothing difficult from making the difference between an wall post and something that was sent privately to someone by message.
    Do you have shares @ Facebook that you need to defend something like this?
    The truth is right in front of people’s eyes and still they deny, crazy world..
    And it’s not that it did not happen to you, or your friends, that it didn’t happen to others.”

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    Indeed Michelle, if your entire wall is private and locked it will not be visible. If you have a more public page, then anyone who has access to your wall (per your preferences) will see these posts.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    Glad to help. And we hope so too!

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    kim

    I’m not following your instructions. I’m not seeing a “friends 2010″ type section. Can anyone explain this differently?

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    kelly

    I’m absolutely certain my private messages were exposed. I used FB PRIVATE messages for VERY private things. I have no reason to mislead anyone on this but FB has everything invested. This is a HUGE disaster for privacy and security. Huge wake up call for me and I am a very savvy FBer. I’ve seen private messages as recent as 2011. I’ve had Timeline since the beginning. This is unreal.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    quietpanther

    The kicker for me is that Facebook points out that messaging and wall posts are completely separate systems that can’t and don’t cross over.

    People post messages to my wall all the time that I would prefer were sent privately. And I know that I, for one, as well as most people I know, would not be able to remember whether a particular conversation held two years ago were wall-posted or messaged, especially since comments on wall posts only came out in 2009 and wall post conversations before then were exchanged in separate wall posts (again, as pointed out in the article referenced above). Does anyone remember “wall-to-wall”? Back before Timeline, wall-to-wall posting functioned VERY similarly to messaging, and it would be easy to get the two confused — whether then (accidentally wall-to-walling instead of messaging) or now (mistaking the memory of one for the other).

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    SPKarenO

    Here’s my question. If this is indeed a bug that can be fixed by Facebook, why should I bother to change the current settings. I like those particular settings the way they are.
    I guess I don’t really see what kind of threat this is. I’m not trolling through my friends pages from 2010 or earlier, and I rather doubt anyone I know is doing likewise to me. So, if indeed its a bug that will be corrected, why all the hoopla?

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Ann

    It is as if facebook is trying to make all of our “friends” mad at us or make our lives completely transparent. Soo frustrating!

    I did not see any messages on my wall… but I will need to test out the timelines of a few friends to see what might be there.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    tracy

    You have to remember, before 2010 or so, when someone commented on your wall you couldn’t responde directly underneath (or “like” it) like you can now. Someone would write something on your wall, like, “Hey, drinks tomorrow?” and you would have to GO TO THEIR WALL to write your response- it would then go back and forth in that manner. Super sloppy and chaotic for sure, but i’m 99% positive THAT is what everyone is seeing.

    We were also way more open on facebook a few years ago- more publicly chatty and less obsessed with privacy- hence we would babble on walls and make plans and whatnot- things that would be relegated to private messages today. It was just different then.

    I am yet to hear from someone who DEFINITELY knows 100% that something was a PM- like “OMG, I hate that pig, why is she coming tonight?” kind of gossip suddenly popping up on the wall for “that pig” to see. Do you know what i mean? I think this might be a misunderstanding.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Jenrose

    Yeah, I have always been pretty careful about what I allow to stay on my wall, and I am 100% confident that the posts I found there were private messages originally, as I would have deleted them years ago if they weren’t.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    Unfortunately Tracy, we’ve seen now dozens of public comments that were 100% without a doubt private messages. Some open with statements like “I’m DMing you because…” or reveal very private conversations.

    Bummer, we know.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    You’re wondering why people are concerned that their private messages are now public? Your level of concern would probably be related to how you use the messaging function.

    We just saw a message board comment: “There were some shitty messages from my aunt about my mom. Jesus.”

    And “I just read some PMs between friends of mine on one of THEIR pages. Talking smack about another friend. UH OH.”

    Hopefully none of our readers are having Facebook affairs…

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Rachel

    This is just insane. Yet another thing that gets me to almost leave facebook… and yet I stick around ;)

    Thanks for the info!

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Sean

    Thank you for pointing this out. These aren’t Private Messages being posted for the public. This line in particular juts drove me nuts:

    “These now public posts are missing from our private message box, and they do not conform to the usual format of wall posts and responses found on friendship pages.”

    Well of course they don’t conform to the usual format of wall posts. If you did any research into this issue and saw what Facebook was saying you’d realize that the “usual format” wasn’t always the format used. Commenting and liking someone’s wall post was added in/after 2009. So that is why some posts look like one sided conversations….because that’s exactly what they are and that’s exactly how Facebook used to work. Here’s direct from a Facebook representative:

    ” 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.”.

  • Reply September 28, 2012

    Sean

    Would you kindly direct me to this 100% without a doubt proof? Screenshots of some kind would be fine. I have yet to see real proof but lots of comments.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 28, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    We can only tell you Sean, without sending you personal screenshots, that we deleted many 2010 posts that included phone numbers or other personal info that never would have been posted on a wall.

    This is a fascinating thread: http://pandce.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=ml&thread=65367&page=1

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    Marci

    Has anyone found evidence that their Private Messages (aka FB email) messages line up with the “Posts to So and So’s Timeline”? I have not, not to say that this isn’t happening. Seems like FB posted all the Wall to Wall messages that we used to do back in the day.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 29, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    Eric Ochoa

    I did this, it’s only stuff that people posted on your wall/timeline. There are 0. Absolutely NO true private conversations on my wall. Anything considered a message to another user, not there.

    This is a giant hoax perpetrated by people who don’t understand how databases work.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 29, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    Because it didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. We are not in the hoax business, and the screenshots people are sending us are growing exponentially.

    But thanks for your comment.

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    seili

    I’m not sure that this proves anything at all. I am still really wondering if people are reacting out of fear and forgetting which were messages and which were posts.

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    Eryn

    I know for a fact that 1 of mine in 2010 was a private message, because I was sharing my kids ages now with a friend I’d lost contact with & used their real names, not the names I’ve used for them online since 2006. I also gave her my mailing address. I NEVER send that sort of information out where the specific person who asks for it can see it.

    Why are these old messages & posts important, if “our friends aren’t going to go trolling through our old posts from 2010″? Because things posted on FB are available to Google search.

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    Jason

    Private messages are most definitely being shared. On my friends wall, there are private messages that where between her and a guy talking about an affair they had the night before, while she was engaged. The next message is from her fiance and was a public post on her wall… about the wedding…

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    Jennifer

    I have found what look like chat messages on my friends’ timelines. I can tell they are chat messages because they are written in single lines, with a hard return at the end, and no punctuation. Something like this:

    Hey there
    It was great to see you last night
    Can you believe *she* showed up?

    Then, if you click on that “post” on the timeline, it shows how many “comments” there were. Click on the comments, and you get the rest of the chat conversation. This was not on my timeline, it was on a friend’s. And it was totally visible to me, all of it. It may not have been every chat, but it did happen.

    Naysayers should check out their friends’ timelines and maybe discover their own chats and PMs showing up.

    As for us not remembering how we used FB a few years ago, that’s silly. I remember seeing other people’s wall-to-wall showing up on my news feed and then commenting on it. I would never have thought wall-to-wall was private messaging.

  • Reply September 29, 2012

    T.J.

    Have you shared any of these “smoking gun” screenshots with either Facebook or the media?

  • Reply September 30, 2012

    Jennifer

    Actually, I just emailed a whole bunch of them to this blog.

  • Reply September 30, 2012

    Amy

    My question is why would it only happen to some people and not everyone? And why would it only happen to a couple of your private messages and not all of them? That fact alone should tell you that you are probably remembering wrong and those are private wall posts you are seeing, back when it was wall to wall instead of PM’s. I just think people are over reacting big time to something that they just remember incorrectly to begin with. If you want to hid it, go ahead, but it’s not a huge breach of privacy like everyone is claiming, IMO.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 30, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    Great questions Amy. The fact that a bug or a technical glitch would behave erratically is very typical. It doesn’t in any way mean that thousands of people are remembering wrong

    Theories include that this is an issue with private chats (not PMs) being merged with timeline posts; or a fault with a Blackberry instant message app for Facebook that didn’t integrate properly. Several IT people have experienced it as well and have an increasing number of technical theories that we have yet to fully understand, but will post if any seem concrete.

    There are many possibilities for what is happening. But it is happening. Please don’t dismiss the experiences of thousands of thoughtful, tech-savvy people who are experiencing privacy breeches with 100% certainty–including our own editors and readers.

  • Reply September 30, 2012

    T.J.

    Actually, I meant for that comment to appear on the main thread. I was asking Kristin & Liz. Sorry!

  • Reply September 30, 2012

    T.J.

    I have an alternate theory about what’s happened, but I don’t remember quite enough about exactly how Facebook used to work two iterations ago to be very vocal about it. I used to be on another hybrid blog/social networking site, and I might be confusing features between the two in my fuzzy memory.

    BUT: does anyone else remember being able to make wall posts private to the wall’s owner (as in, you could specify “just me and so-and-so” as a privacy option for who can see a wall-to-wall conversation)? It could be that–as Facebook insists–these conversations technically were always wall posts, yet they were not always PUBLIC wall posts. And then when Facebook changed their design, they did not grandfather in the privacy settings on old wall-to-wall conversations. That would make more sense than a database glitch; however, if that’s true it’s still bad for Facebook’s PR.

    Again, I would need someone to confirm that Facebook did work that way in the past before I got too confident about it.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply September 30, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    Thanks T.J. It’s entirely possible. Although we have people swearing up and down they only ever shared personal info by chat or PM so it’s hard to say.

  • Reply October 1, 2012

    smilingchaos

    Just to clarify: The pictures of the supposed private messages you are showing above have options to like or to comment. Therefore,they were never private posts to begin with. Also, Facebook did not introduce private messages until Nov 2010.

  • Cool Mom Picks
    Reply October 1, 2012

    Cool Mom Picks

    We’ve seen these statements repeated around but unfortunately they’re inaccurate. Our own personal inboxes still have PMs going back to early 2008.

    Additionally, the “like” feature was added in 2009 and the ability to comment on news feed stories was added in 2008 (link: http://on.fb.me/QxGhAG); those features were added retroactively on all items that are in your timeline. I can see comments on public posts going back to 2007 that now have a like button on item. Therefore it stands to reason that any stories that now appear in your timeline (including possible private messages or chats) would also have those features.

    Thanks for your continued comments.

  • Reply October 1, 2012

    the muskrat

    Just checked, and I had private messages on there, but I doubt anyone’s looking at my 2009 timelines anyway, and there wasn’t anything too profane or personal on there anyway.

  • Reply October 2, 2012

    mike

    Several other blogs have reported this and proposed the same solution as given here. However, this “fix” DOES NOT WORK fully and may give users a false sense of security.

    It simply hides the “friends posted on your timeline” summary on the timeline Highlights for a year. But if you select a month and view the all the posts for that month they CAN STILL BE SEEN mixed with your own posts.

    The correct fix is for people to change their privacy settings. If there are posts which should now be private (whether you think they were PMs or they were just unwise old wall posts which timeline has made more accessible) set “who can see what others post on your timeline” in timeline privacy settings to “only me”. Unwanted posts can then be individually removed from your timeline before changing the setting back.

    If PMs really have been added to timelines we need some PROOF from at least one person to confirm their opinions about what was historically private, not just screenshots taken now. For example, has anyone used “Download a copy of your Facebook data” in account settings before the messages appeared in timeline? The case against facebook could be proved if the posts by others in an old download did not include these messages.

  • Julie Marsh
    Reply October 4, 2012

    Julie Marsh

    Another great example of private messages now public – planning of a surprise party!

    http://realestatetangent.com/facebook-private-messages-arent-so-private/

  • Reply October 5, 2012

    Mia

    Thank YOU for posting!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply October 12, 2012

    Jessica

    I kid you not, I was skeptical at first, my friend told me today that she had seen our private messages on her timeline and told me to check mine, sure enough on both of our time lines there were mine and her very personal messages about people we didnt like and parties we had been to (that we would NOT want our mothers to see) however I was still unsure, so I decided to look back on my ex boyfriends wall and sure enough there were some very very personal emails which we would definitely not have written on each others walls being displayed, there were also messages on his timeline from other women he was obviously seeing at the same time as me being displayed. lucky this was in 2009 so no hard feelings but why would he post those messages on there when he seemed to be seeing two other women at the same time?! Especially as I visited his facebook often and Im assuming the other girls would have too. I love facebook and I am throughly outraged that they have done this, are still denying it, and that I’ve had to delete my facebook.

  • Reply October 22, 2012

    RR

    Me and my friends has found very private messages on our timelines! This is a major issue and Facebook denies it!

    It is from the mailbox or chat it does not matter its PRIVATE!

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