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Facebook Denies Leak of Users' Private Messages

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the like-a-sieve dept.

Facebook 63

silentbrad writes "The CBC (among others) reports: "A Facebook spokesperson is denying reports that private messages sent by users on the social networking site have become public. The purported glitch began generating attention Monday after French newspaper Metro reported that private messages dating from 2007 to 2009 had become accessible to friends and acquaintances on their profile pages. Other newspapers across the country began reporting similar incidences, citing reports from the site's users. The issue may be related to Facebook moving to its Timeline layout worldwide. ... The company issued a statement in response, saying: '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.' TechCrunch.com wrote that there was no evidence the messages in question had been private, and posted an explanation from a company spokesperson. '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.]'"

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MY PRIVATE LEAVE MESSAGES ?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475481)

I learn something every day here at slashdot !!

What (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475483)

isn't this old news

Re:What (2)

hovelander (250785) | about 2 years ago | (#41476663)

Ugh...

Slash, my young 15 year old friend with Progeria, these warmed over submissions of old news are making you look quite wrinkly now. I have nothing but empathy and compassion for the actual kids with the genetic disorder, but with you?

It's a boring kind of wrinkly that barely makes anyone sad or wanting of giving their two shits.

I've always come here for your unique blend of Geek insight and debate. I've weathered your dupe storms and spun some of your memes in the guilty orgy of hindsight shame. I laughed as Kevin Rose stole your Ford Pinto with Digg and then proceeded to drive that backwards everywhere without the safety plate, eventually getting creamed by some aspy Wikipedia editor in an old Chevy Caprice.

Now? I mean you've always had your submissions of warmed over old news for debate and that was sometimes interesting, but mostly not. Right at this moment, and it may be just where I am with your aesthetic personally and I can admit that, but right now?

These wrinkles are on a little progeria clown, in a backwater 2 bit carnival, with secret shows and donkeys in the back tents.

Old news about old news? Sad wrinkles my little, beloved clown. Can't you pull that shit tight? The fat, bearded lady has a mean streak and just eyed you up after smiling at the back tents. She doesn't care that you know Fortran, she just sees that you are losing your relevance and network effect and wants a solid giggle in her big belly.

So Slash, please find a way to use those wrinkles to your advantage. (More surface area? Meta Material clown paint?) I know the smug circle jerk has always been a part of Slashdot culture, as have stories and pleas like mine that you have passed your prime.
But your current incarnation just seems increasingly boring and I'm not even sure the donkey would have ya if you found yourself kicking and screaming in the sully tents.

Time for some phoenix fire, sad little clown, cuz this little wrinkly carcass doesn't hold it's own anymore. Shit. The donkey just started using OSX now too. I don't think he even cared to kick you out of the way. Sad, that.

Slash, you were, and still sometimes are, a place I love for rare insight, education, and wisdom of the programming lowID elders. But flies are the only ones hovering around your submission turds lately, and even they are losing interest now. You see, flies don't like dried turds like this. Only rot and ground welcome a dried turd.

So think, plan, design, program and rise my little progeria clown. Smug flies can't sustain you for long. You are one of the most unique cultures of debates, insights and geeks I've ever known. I've learned so much from you in the past and find myself learning less and less every time I visit. So yet another call from one of your long time geeks to evolve or at least try to cure your genetic disorder.

Cuz dried turds soon lose their resources to rain and dirt and flowers and bees. Users like me get carried off to others sites smelling less stale on those little hairy legs...

Time for another incarnation, my sad, little donkey rejected clown.

Time at least to take off the stark white under green line nesting clown paint that causes optical illusions on programming strained eyes.

Time to stop watching your stale resources rot to the ground and fly off as pollen on hairy little legs.

Time, at very long least, to try, my sad little wrinkly clown.

Yes, I know that last sentence is oddly pervy. But outside of the humor in that, the original intent still stands. (And Holy, Chocolatiest of Buddhas was this rant and plea fun to write. Thanks or reading it!)

Re:What (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41482497)

That's some good stuff you're smoking, I want some of it.

Facebook has changed a LOT (4, Informative)

grrrl (110084) | about 2 years ago | (#41475495)

funny how our memories are so short - Facebook has changed a LOT in the (relatively) few years it has been running. you did used to have conversations via wall post! there was nothing BUT a person's wall. these days there are far less wall posts on other people's walls because I find the new view doesn't really encourage it, and I find that I post less on other's walls because timeline puts them out in everyone else's view - "you know these people! look, they're talking!! it is relevant to you!!".

most people won't scroll to the end of their own wall let alone anyone else's, but if you do you really can find out a LOT about people. even though Facebook keeps all your data I still try to delete a lot of my old wall when it is no longer relevant.

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475539)

I know for a fact that there were leaked messages. Private conversations between me and my girlfriend were posted to my wall when I scrolled far enough back in the history.

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (3, Funny)

Theophany (2519296) | about 2 years ago | (#41475547)

Don't be silly, you don't have a girlfriend!

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (1)

grrrl (110084) | about 2 years ago | (#41475575)

That sucks!

Probably best to go in and delete old private conversations as well.

I'm hardly surprised this has happened given all the changes - they probably changed their scheme for categorising posts/messages/etc a million times. You'd have to think (hope?) it is far less likely that deleted posts/comments/messages suddenly re-appear... but no doubt one-day they will sell the whole lot to data miners before they go under...

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41477477)

That's completely untrue. I have had deleted messages (we're talking deleted years ago) reappear on my wall several times. Enough for me to block everyone on my facebook from everything. The website is a disaster privacy-wise not to mention they don't care about your privacy and will do anything to get all of your information.

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41482281)

That's completely untrue. I have had deleted messages (we're talking deleted years ago) reappear on my wall several times. Enough for me to block everyone on my facebook from everything. The website is a disaster privacy-wise not to mention they don't care about your privacy and will do anything to get all of your information.

And yet you sound like you're still using it. Whose fault is that?

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (1)

phorm (591458) | about 2 years ago | (#41478079)

Probably best to go in and delete old private conversations as well.

You can't, at least on the mobile client.
After this happened I decided to check out doing just that as a precaution. There was no "delete" button... just "archive"

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475961)

Same story here. I had a friend inform me they could read the messages I'd sent to an ex girlfriend, the kind of thing I would never have posted publicly in a million years. The messages themselves even allude to the fact the conversation was supposedly taking place in private. I'm not an idiot, I know my tech and I know how to keep my data to myself when necessary. It's understandable to think people are merely making mistakes here, but something is definitely going wrong.

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41477149)

You obviously know your tech and value your privacy. That's why you're posting private info on FB.

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475563)

funny how our memories are so short - Facebook has changed a LOT in the (relatively) few years it has been running.

I remember when they changed the 'links' system and all mine disappeared.

I swear I've already posted some of the same inane crap I post to annoy my friends, and I fear one day, Facebook will restore this data and I'll look like I have Alzheimer's.

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475571)

Case in point: Facebook didn't even used to allow people to post to the "walls" of others.

Ignore this story. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 2 years ago | (#41475963)

The messages in question are old wall posts and their comments. These are already public (as much as your friends can read them, which is all that has happened). It's in the fucking stub.

Pushing sensationalist bullshit headlines to generate clicks, eh? Gotta keep Dice sweet... Make that $20m look like a good deal.

Re:Ignore this story. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#41476963)

This story is actually important. Maybe not for /. users, but I have friends who are still spreading the PM FUD on FB.

Re:Ignore this story. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 2 years ago | (#41477223)

But people are commenting on the headline, not the post. The two aren't even similar. I suppose technically Facebook did deny posting private messages in public, but only by way of saying "You're all morons. These are wall posts. Lern2red."

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (1)

jitterman (987991) | about 2 years ago | (#41476695)

I probably haven't been active on FB for at least two years, and last week I deleted my account. The shift in the nature of privacy weighed heavily among the factors that lead me to do so.

Re:Facebook has changed a LOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41477377)

It took a couple of years for my mom to figure out the difference between wall posts and private messages.
No, I don't live in her basement.

"Private" and "Facebook" in the same sentence? (5, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 2 years ago | (#41475521)

You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Re:"Private" and "Facebook" in the same sentence? (0)

Zouden (232738) | about 2 years ago | (#41475695)

I think most people have a pretty good idea what it means, thank you very much.
Facebook has two main methods of communication between users. If I post on a friend's wall, I do it knowing that our mutual friends will see it - that's exactly the point. If I want a "private" conversation, I'll use the messaging feature. Those messages can only be seen by the recipients, as well as facebook's data-mining algorithms.

It's exactly as private as using Gmail.

Re:"Private" and "Facebook" in the same sentence? (1)

djsmiley (752149) | about 2 years ago | (#41475707)

And if any friend likes this comment, their mutual friends can see it too..... and within 6 likes you've captured most of the planet in your "Mutual Friends" group.

Congratulations on world wide fame :D

Re:"Private" and "Facebook" in the same sentence? (1)

Zouden (232738) | about 2 years ago | (#41476037)

That's not true. Likes and comments on a post don't change the privacy settings of that post. It's really not that complicated.

Re:"Private" and "Facebook" in the same sentence? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 2 years ago | (#41476235)

If you think anything on Facebook is "private" (between you, your friend, and Facebook) you're sorely mistaken. Selling other companies the profile of you based upon the content of those messages is how Facebook makes their money.

I stand by my slightly-tongue-in-cheek-but-ultimately-correct statement.

Re:"Private" and "Facebook" in the same sentence? (2)

Zouden (232738) | about 2 years ago | (#41476643)

You say that Facebook users don't understand the meaning of the word "privacy", but that's plain incorrect. Most are fine with the knowledge that Facebook is using their data to fund the service, but are not fine with messages meant for one friend being seen by another friend. That's a type of "privacy" which is much more important to most people.

Re:"Private" and "Facebook" in the same sentence? (1)

jitterman (987991) | about 2 years ago | (#41476811)

I have to respectfully disagree here. I don't believe there is anything entirely private about FB (for that matter, I don't trust that I am guaranteed privacy using Gmail either, so interestingly your analogy holds - though in negative), even if that privacy was breached only from time to time via accidental release. And your information (I would not doubt in the least that this includes ALL of your information) is available to the highest commercial bidder. At least with e-mail/search system companies (be it Yahoo, Hotmail, GMail, etc.) it's *probably* only your search habits that are being mined (I don't work for any of them, and haven't done any thorough research myself - just wracking my brain for recollection of news, etc, in which e-mail releases or misuse occurred). Point is, it's a very open forum where it's safer to bet that you ought not to communicate things that you may regret.

It's becausue Facebook used to be a walled garden (5, Insightful)

BlackTriangle (581416) | about 2 years ago | (#41475553)

A protected, safe area, where you felt safe posting your phone number and home address for your fellow University students at your specific University. Now that the riff raff are allowed, it's no longer possible to have those safe semi-private conversations. People forget how protected and private it used to be, I think.

Re:It's becausue Facebook used to be a walled gard (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 2 years ago | (#41476275)

While I agree that a lot has changed since it was only university students, I have to point out that my university has more people attending than there were people in my home town. I don't consider my entire university to be anything equivalent to a close knit community. There are 33,000 students currently at my old Alma mater. That's quite a few people.

4chan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475677)

90% chance this rumor was started by 4chan trolls.

This quote says everything you need to know (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475691)

This quote from Facebook themselves says everything you need to know about Facebook:

> "...after what they believed to be private messages..."

The internet never forgets.... (1)

djsmiley (752149) | about 2 years ago | (#41475703)

However people regularly do, and this seems to show :)

Re:The internet never forgets.... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41477625)

It forgot Yello There. The only part of his site still in existance is one page of it I had on my own site, now at archive.org. The rest of Yello There is gone forever. Most of my site is still there, but there is almost as much missing as archived (I still have it on disk, offline).

The internet does indeed forget.

it's not a leak (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475721)

not when the changes to facebook settings means that your message are now available to be seen by various people
no, it's more the users' fault for not keeping up with the changes

investigate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41475809)

The issue may be related to Facebook private conversation wall. If there was no post or messaging with private mark then no friends no faily have older message visible either. A breach of user privacy happen in garden after mutual "like" or cross-like marking. Protected area in use for best way.

engineers? (0)

chris.alex.thomas (1718644) | about 2 years ago | (#41475827)

really?? you have engineers working for you? are you sure they're engineers? cause I've never ever heard of a programmer call himself an engineer other than those who want to glorify what they do, which is type code into a terminal and HOPE it doesn't crash without even as much as a couple of page refreshes in their favourite browser or executions and the barest amount of testing known to man.

I'm one of those people and I certainly DON'T call myself an engineer. Now proud of it, but the tools we have are too immature and I'm improving my situation as I go along.

Re:engineers? (0)

chris.alex.thomas (1718644) | about 2 years ago | (#41475909)

oops, meant "Not proud of it" before any grammer nazis find it :)

Re:engineers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41476149)

You misspelled "grammar".

Re:engineers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41477059)

i kill you!! (hehe)

I sent a message but didn't mark it PRIVATE (1)

ReallyEvilCanine (991886) | about 2 years ago | (#41475939)

And I did it within a system that:

10) automatically treated direct messages as private; and
20) had no mechanism to mark direct messages as private because;
30 GOTO 10

> > no evidence the messages in question had been private

ahem.

Re:I sent a message but didn't mark it PRIVATE (2)

unk98 (1525843) | about 2 years ago | (#41476865)

Weren't "direct messages" in the early years of Facebook mostly wall-to-wall. Everyone else could see them; I recall reading quite a few conversations that should have been kept private (phone numbers, address, etc). A lot of users I knew back then did not know there was a difference between a user's inbox and their wall.

Re:I sent a message but didn't mark it PRIVATE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41476983)

Yes. If privacy was not (supposedly) a concern due the situation (say a small group of students),
and the situation changes (millions of users, data-mining) privacy DOES become a concern but yeah, those old messages weren't marked "private".

It only goes to show it's better never to put anything on the Net you REALLY want private;
you don't know what someone will do with it later.

Probably the users were naive and facebook less than trustworthy.

https://xkcd.com/743/

Well, by leaking it, it's no longer private (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41476251)

So, yeah, they didn't leak any private messages...

FAILZORS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41477977)

Still can see them (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#41480775)

You may think they're private, but it's really FB resetting the privacy and having a default of no privacy.

So if I'm a friend of person A and person B and both have not SPECIFICALLY disabled my ability to see them and I enable viewing all from both, I get to see what person A says to person B.

Maybe if FB wasn't so p3rv3 this wouldn't be an issue. Like if they respected privacy.

They're already selling your "private message" content to advertisers to allow them to serve you ads.

It's possible it's related to either the US or Canadian domains, as my FB is tied to both, since I'm from both countries.

Re:Still can see them (1)

admdrew (782761) | about 2 years ago | (#41481767)

So if I'm a friend of person A and person B and both have not SPECIFICALLY disabled my ability to see them and I enable viewing all from both, I get to see what person A says to person B.

FB messages != wall posts, and never have. Simple case of people not understanding a system they use.

Re:Still can see them (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#41482057)

not wall posts - messages - also happens when you get a group post

Re:Still can see them (1)

admdrew (782761) | about 2 years ago | (#41482149)

So if I'm a friend of person A and person B and both have not SPECIFICALLY disabled my ability to see them and I enable viewing all from both, I get to see what person A says to person B.

not wall posts - messages

Facebook messages cannot be seen by anyone other than the sender and recipient(s). It has always been like that. Again, it's just people not understanding the difference between old wall posts (which weren't broadcasted to everyone, but were still visible if you viewed someone's wall) and actual messages.

Re:Still can see them (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#41482323)

You say it's a wall post, but do you actually have an account with both .ca and us attributes?
Shows up in the middle left upper message slot, between fr and posts/activity.

I think the problem may lie in multiple country permission groupings - Canada has stricter laws than we do in the US, for one thing, and the implementation may differ, causing interesting side effects for certain people.

Re:Still can see them (1)

admdrew (782761) | about 2 years ago | (#41482445)

Your Facebook must be broken. The articles linked to this story correctly describe how it's working for everyone else.

Re:Still can see them (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#41482509)

Your Facebook must be broken. The articles linked to this story correctly describe how it's working for everyone else.

Whatever. You probably have friends who are techie enough to disable the settings and not share stuff.

Not my problem.

Re:Still can see them (1)

admdrew (782761) | about 2 years ago | (#41482639)

In a friendlier note, I also went to UW (assuming it's the same one).

Re:Still can see them (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 2 years ago | (#41482857)

There are multiple UW. University of Wisconsin, University of Washington. I went to Capilano University (2 degrees) in North Vancouver, BC, brief stints in military colleges and local BC colleges, SFU, and Post grad at UW Seattle, as well as NSCC in Seattle and Oracle, Sybase, Access developer and DBA courses/certs and even wrote most of the Access 2.0 toolkit (too many people hard coding stuff that was better as packaged libraries) and some of the C menu systems that are public domain.

Now for an EE PhD from the UW. My son's going for his BSc EE here soon, after NSCC and SCCC EE.

Earth to idiots... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41480913)

Posting something on someone's Facebook wall is not a "private message".

Re:Earth to idiots... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41486453)

Earth to Moron: there is an expectation of privacy, when privacy controls are used.

This was reported back in January (2)

HPXX (1189589) | about 2 years ago | (#41481373)

Wait what, there was news about this back in January in Swedish media, where as Facebook representatives claimed that these were messages written directly to each others walls (I have facebook, and looking back, I would not talk openly about vomiting, personal issues or anything of that sort). I want to recall Facebook later claimed that the chat function from the beginning was not a real chat, but rather "minifeed" posts which were hidden from the wall (so an update of some sort showed these posts, if they started showing with timeline or prior to that, I do not know). Looking back at the articles right now, I don't actually find any references to media abroad, but rather just swedish ones. Anyway, here are the sources I found (all in swedish, sorry). Origin afaik: https://www.flashback.org/t1763964 [flashback.org] (requires login) A post that tries to list the facts among other things (a good read) http://www.joinsimon.se/facebook-buggar-och-din-privata-information-hur-star-det-egentligen-till/ [joinsimon.se] Explanation by Facebooks Swedish representative http://www.idg.se/2.1085/1.425636 [www.idg.se] And finally from aftonbladet (sensational articles deluxe) http://www.aftonbladet.se/nyheter/article14188881.ab [aftonbladet.se] Imo, the top three links are the ones worth having a look at.

Re:This was reported back in January (1)

HPXX (1189589) | about 2 years ago | (#41481395)

Also, sorry. Forgot to preview, that post looks like something that got ran over.

Re:This was reported back in January (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41483181)

Interesting. The joinsimon post sheds some light on the dodgy mini-feeds. I don't know if that explains the reported leaks, but it's shady stuff that not many people know. Readable with gtranslate.

Re:This was reported back in January (1)

Keen Anthony (762006) | about 2 years ago | (#41484127)

This isn't the same story. Can't possibly be; or if so, it's happened again, making it a new story. My private messages (not chat, not wall posts) were available on my historial timeline for anyone with permission to view me to access. This wasn't true before, and this has happened to everyone I know so far.

Re:This was reported back in January (1)

HPXX (1189589) | about 2 years ago | (#41486349)

Doesn't facebook use private messages for chat (at least now)? Although this might indeed be a different issue since some people on the linked articles claims to see posts from 2012 aswell (this is something I can't see). It's just as bad though.

Re:This was reported back in January (1)

Keen Anthony (762006) | about 2 years ago | (#41486433)

I'm not sure. I disabled chat as soon as I got that feature, so I don't know where the messages go. And that's one of the frustrating aspects of Facebook. Someone in another thread referred to the old Facebook as a walled garden, I suppose versus MySpace and the other social nets of that time. New features don't just appear for everyone at the same time. I had friends who had the "new" timeline before I did, and I had feature they didn't have. I have friends that have bugs that I don't have as well, including sudden deletions of contacts. So considering this, who knows what sort of privacy problems exist. There may be users that are exposing a lot of information but not realizing it because none of their contacts have that particular problem.

Sure (1)

Spliffster (755587) | about 2 years ago | (#41481595)

We deny that the data has been leaked by accident, it wasn't a leak it was a sale, you know.

Fuck you, Facebook. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41486385)

I'm tired of being spied upon. I'm not a huge fan of Anonymous, but I would really like to see Facebook destroyed.

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