Facebook users have feared that a bug in the social networking site may have caused private messages sent between friends to reappear on their public Timeline page.


The supposed glitch was originally discovered by French newspapers Le Monde, Le Matin and Metro France, and reported by Tech Crunch. There were complaints of the bug in the UK, America and Europe.

However, investigations by Facebook discovered there was no problem with its site and that the reappearing messages were all originally public posts, rather than private messages.

"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]" a Facebook spokesperson told Tech Crunch.

The problems may have been caused by Facebook rolling out its newer Timeline format worldwide yesterday, permanently replacing the 'Wall' which users posted upon in the past.

Yesterday (24 September) also marked the first day of Facebook's new advertising initiative to compare users' profile data with their shopping trends.

Using information purchased from Datalogix, Facebook can now match its user's accounts to supermarket and department store loyalty cards, to determine if the advertisements they are seeing are driving spending. In the 45 trial campaigns launched by Facebook so far, statistics have shown that for every dollar a company spends on Facebook advertising, they receive $3 (£1.85) in revenue.

There have been concerns raised over this new practice, as to whether it violates Facebook users' privacy rights. Yesterday's bug scare has also raised issues for some; writing for The Guardian's US Blog section, Katie Rogers said Facebook users had been "lulled into a false sense of security" when Facebook originally launched publicly in 2007:

"My friends - not subscribers or acquaintances, just friends - and I were not thinking about privacy on my birthday in 2008. I compared private messages with public posts from that date and what's funny is that the public-facing wall posts give away far more information about my friends than the private messages do."

Facebook has now issued an official statement, assuring that no private messages were leaked in public:

"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."

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