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Seriously Facebook? Why did you do this to us?

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Don’t believe the mainstream media that tells you this is NOT happening. I have proof at the bottom of this post.

no bs Seriously Facebook? Why did you do this to us?This is not a joke, and it could cause some MAJOR harm to a lot of people.

Some of some people’s private inbox messages on your personal Facebook profile are now visible for all to see from 2010 and earlier. This is a new change from Facebook as of yesterday (September 26th, 2012).

Don’t believe me?

Read your timeline from those years. Everything is there for the world to see.

They look like wall posts – they are not!

Thankfully, there’s an easy fix.

When you’re in your own timeline, just click on the year on the right (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and you’ll see a box with a bunch of friends’ messages and a header that says 89 people have written on so and sos timeline – hover over the right side until you see the pencil, click and select hide from timeline.

Repeat for each year.

I didn’t believe this until I saw this on my timeline.

And I’m left wondering a few things:

Why is Facebook doing this? What are they trying to do with our private conversations and information?

Got any thoughts? Or any questions? Leave a comment. Let’s talk about this.

UPDATE on September 28th, 2012: Many don’t believe me.

The major news outlets are disclaiming this. Facebook says it isn’t happening. I agree – it isn’t happening – FOR EVERYONE! It is absolutely happening for some people.

Here’s the proof of a Facebook private message leak on your walls, courtesy of my friend Jeff Shuey. Don’t worry – nothing scandalous here, and he gave me permission to share this).

And here’s a note someone posted on Facebook (name redacted):

“Yeah. I’ve been making sure I tell everyone this. It’s awful and true. I had some seriously, VERY private emails dealing with my husband’s infidelity that were on my timeline for everyone to read.

Pretty sure all of my friends who sent me private messages about their husbands cheating as well didn’t want everyone on FB to know, but apparently FB thought it was ok….

Very slimy.”

The best defense is to take 90 seconds and just remove this whole box from your wall:

When you’re in your own timeline, just click on the year on the right (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) and you’ll see a box with a bunch of friends’ messages and a header that says 89 people have written on so and sos timeline – hover over the right side until you see the pencil, click and select hide from timeline.

Repeat for each year.

Why isn’t Facebook (or the mainstream media) admitting to this problem?

Also, I wanted to make sure my friend Lori got a big thanks for being the first of my friends to bring this problem to my attention.

Leave a Comment



  1. Once again, I’m considering closing down my FB profile. It’s definitely love/hate relationship with a large emphasis on hate….

  2. Thanks, Phil. I couldn’t verify that any of mine were messages, but I also wasn’t interested in digging through hundreds each year. Shared this on the collective’s wall and about to share on my other two!

    • Dana – some of the messages I saw were private messages. If you only have wall posts, I’m glad for you.

      And no doubt Facebook is plugging this hole as fast as folks can report it.

      I’ve also read the Forbes article. I think Facebook moved quickly. But I also would rather be safe than sorry as I don’t want people knowing my private business, even if it is not scandalous.

      I wish I was wrong.

    • This is very true on my wall! And not just old messages from years ago- Private messages from LAST WEEK! I was shocked to see an entire conversation from a private chat on my wall the next morning.

  3. If I see this right, then this way I can only hide the INCOMING messages! For MY personal OUTGOING messages, I am depending on my friends doing the same thing?! Help!

  4. Phil,

    Thanks for the heads-up! My questions are the same — What could Facebook be doing with private conversation that would trigger our private words to go into a public setting?

    I’ve found other things on Facebook in the past few days that I also find “irritating.” Investigating now, and if I find what I think I will, I’ll report out.

    Thanks again!


    • Thanks Keri. I hope this leak gets plugged ASAP. I’m fixing myself for now.

      • Keri,

        I knew for a fact that PMs were being posted when I saw a “post” from January 20, 2012 that was ABSOLUTELY a private chat/message between you and I. The denials are going to blow up if they don’t step lively and fess up, then fix this. No, it wasn’t anything SCANDALOUS, but the premise is the problem, not the bulk of the posts.

  5. That is pretty scary that they would even consider doing this. It also means they can do anything they want in the future with all private messages. I think it is best not to use the private message feature at all anymore and instead have people contact me by email.

  6. My time line is all timeline posts, none of my PM’s were shown? Hmmm?

  7. Bonnie Busybee says:

    Facebook Users Say Private Messages Appear Publicly [UPDATED] 9/24/2012

    Rumors of a Facebook bug has users from all over the world worried about private messages showing up very publicly on Timeline pages. But the social network is debunking those claims, saying these messages are actually just older wall posts.
    A series of reports coming out of France …— including ones from Metro France and Le Nouvel Observateur — claim that Facebook members who sent private messages over the past few years have been popping up on public posts.
    Some members in the U.S. have said their private messages from 2007 and 2008 are showing up on their Timeline, but Facebook told Mashable that the company hasn’t found a bug and believes the discrepancy comes from a wider roll out of the newer Timeline layout on a global scale.
    Facebook says that if you can comment or Like that activity, then it is a wall post and not a private message. In the past, users weren’t able to comment and Like posts, so Facebook believes members new to Timeline are confusing old posts for private messages.
    “A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline,” Fred Wolens of Facebook Policy Communications said in a statement. “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.”
    UPDATE: When asked if such a bug were possible, Wolens responded: “While not quite a technical impossibility, these systems are run on two separate backends which would require a non-trivial amount of work for this bug to be real.”
    We have been unable to confirm any case where private information has been leaked.
    For those worried that they may be subject to a bug, users can set all wall posts to only friends or just to themselves, and also hide the activity.

    • Thanks Bonnie. I trust my eyes way more than I trust Facebook pR team.

      But the hole is likely closed now.

      And the Packers have been declared the winners of the game Monday night too, according to officials from the WWE. :)

  8. I don’t even trust e-mail with private messages! Once it’s in writing who knows what who can do with it! Telephones still work!

  9. Okay, I just checked through 2010, 2009, and 2008. All I see are posts that people put on my walls. No private messages, just things that had already been on my wall publicly for all to see anyway. I’m totally confused.

  10. Time to shut down my profile and any thing else facebook as it has gotten way too invasive. Good thing I don’t use this email as they probably gave this to spammers as well.

  11. Facebook = CIA spying mechanism. They have their reasons for everything they do. Keep that in mind when the next “social networking” site arises, one which might provide even better spying mechanisms then facebook! People – please check out – watch full movie for free, do you legwork. Its time we make a stand. We do not have much time left! Time to WAKE UP.

  12. Nuked my FB, never regretted it.

  13. Amazingly, I must be a good boy because nothing incriminating has shown up!
    But this is very very irresponsible of Facebook.

  14. Sincere thanks for the heads up and the easy fix, Phil.

    I confirm that there were private messages there for all to see (well, not all, as I’ve gone more and more private on my settings w/ FB) and I’m really, really disappointed that they made such an ugly decision… unreal.


  15. Hi Phil,

    Looks like there’s some updates coming from credible news sites like CNN and BBC.

    Looks like it is a false alarm.

    • Thanks Tony. That article is dated the 25th. I thought this was a hoax too. I have screenshots and emails that say otherwise. I will post them soon.

      • Phil,

        I just looked at your PDF and I don’t understand why it would prove anything. That’s what the old style wall posts looked like. I’ve just gone through my own timeline and all the messages I see – and they look just like that – are indeed of the old style wall-post-back-and-forth Facebook used to consist of.

      • I see it, and I believe what folks tell me.

        Nobody is gaining from this. Why lie?

  16. I’m having trouble believing this, if only because your “proof” screenshots do not look like PMs, they look like regular wall posts. One of my cousins posted this and she said she DID have messages appearing, but I cannot find any evidence on my own timeline.

    Is there any chance you can post a screenshot that is more substantial, that actually has something that can be confirmed as a message. OR can you post a screenshot that shows the posts on the timeline and then shows the same posts and dates from the PM log. That’s what I kept doing, going back and checking my PMs with people to see if stuff really was a message or a wall post and there was simply no overlap.

    The frustrating thing is I would LOVE for this to be true. I would love another excuse to get closer to closing my fb down. Last time I shut it down I lost contact with so many friends. Frustrating. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

    • I’m sharing what I can without compromising anyone.

      I with it WEREN’T true. Good news is it doesn’t affect everyone. It has impacted enough for me to leave this post up.

    • For what it’s worth I’ve seen it on mine, and most of my friends accounts, and girlfriends account. I was alerted to it today and couldn’t quite believe it.

      Messages that were DEFINITELY private were sat right on my timeline for everyone to see – and clearly a lot of embarrassing messages on other peoples walls (stuff that would never have been posted publicly, all from pre-2010).

      If what Facebook say is true, and this can’t technically happen by accident – then someone did it on purpose. Telling me its not a real issue is like telling me the sky isn’t blue.

      I only found this article as I;ve been trying to track down more about the story, it boggles my mind that this isn’t a huge deal, because it’s the biggest failing I’ve seen from Facebook and must have already caused a fair amount of chaos.

  17. Thank you for sharing, I had no idea! I went and checked and what do you know, it was all up there for everyone to see!

  18. I went back to check mine.. & yes I found private messages displayed publicly. Time to hide those like you suggested.. I noticed that they were not in my messages when I looked back. But I specifically remember these conversations, chatting with people on the messenger, and NOT publicly on my wall.

    • Curious: It was Instant messages (chatbox) and not private messages (like their PM e-mail service thing). I know those services are handles together, but they didn’t used to be. I wonder if it’s all Instant Messages and not Private messages.

      I joing FB in 2008 and the chatbox didn’t work for me for a few years (slow internet in a small town that still doesn’t have access to cable TV or Internet) I wonder if that’s why nothing shows up for me.

  19. It happened to me. I did the search and sure enough, several private messages were posted on my wall. Granted, the entire conversation was not shown but what I was able to see were three complete posts (again, not the complete conversation!) from three different individuals that I know for a fact were sent to me in private. I then did a quick check on the wall of someone that I frequently private message, their wall showed nothing other than a series of birthday greetings. I did a check on the wall of another friend and saw several things that I suspected were meant to be private. And they were. When I notified him, he hid his posts immediately.

    In a nutshell, it happened. To me. And to someone I know. Did I think to grab a screen capture? No, I just hit the “hide” button and moved along to search for more.

  20. I saw it as well.

    Facebook is denying the glitch, but in my own timeline I saw a post from a close friend that said (pardon the language) “FUCK!!!! I just got laid off again. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but if you hear of anything in the tech field please let me know 443-336-XXXX”

    Now, am I 100% sure it was a private message? No. And many people are suggesting it is a non-glitch and people are just having poster’s remorse about making a public posting years ago.

    However, this friend is a)pretty private, b)likely would not swear like that publicly, c) is fastidious with language and if it was intended to be public she would have said “if you or any of your friends hear…” and d) would never post her cell phone to a public wall. Maybe to her own profile where she controls who sees it, but not to a public wall.

    So, that is my theory. I looked at a few friends’ profiles too and saw some posts that I thought were likely a private message and not intended for the public to see. This is VERY scary.

    I also found what I believe to be PMs from 2011 and 2012 despite the initial reports of 2010 and earlier.

    I suspect the culprit may be when FB merged chat and messages together into “conversations”.

    I created a video for my readers on how to correct it if you are interested.

  21. Just gotta love the panic spreaders. I’ve read several of these stories and have yet to see any proof, i.e. a post on a wall and in the inbox. Even here the “proof” is just a how-to on how to hide old posts. Looks a lot like people just need to own up to how much private material they post publicly and then stop doing it. I don’t have that issue because if it’s that private I save it for in person or on the phone.

    • I have more proof in my inbox. I’m not a graphics guy so it’s taking me a while to scrub so as not to put anyone. And then I will post it – not that I care if you believe this or not.

      This post is for those impacted. Not everyone is.

      • First, that is my real name, middle name to be exact, just don’t want to share the full name on a strange site because I am into IT and somewhat security minded. Second, image editing on a screen shot is easy, look to the meme and failbook crazes. Third, if you really have proof I will honestly reevalute after you provide it. Until you provide proof though you will get lumped in with conspiracy theorists and panic spreaders. To avoid this, don’t post the story without the proof, it’s just good journalism.

      • Curtiss – you do realize I can track you down by IP address even easier than I could if you posted your name? Just saying.

        And I’m not a journalist. Never claimed to be – and never will. Just trying to help out those who may not understand, and to raise awareness.

        You desired “real proof” being added shortly.

    • Hey Curtiss,

      First, Phil never said he was a journalist – and in fact, he isn’t. He doesn’t have to follow any fair and balanced rules or regulations. Yet, he is trying to verify and provide screen captures. Second, Facebook certainly hasn’t posted any proof from their “tests”. Third, Phil knows that none of us are paranoid idiots intent on spreading falsehoods.

      Have a nice weekend.

    • The things that were posted to my “wall” apparently were private things that I did not want to take a screen shot of, I was shocked that they were even there. I’m a full grown adult I know what was posted on my wall and what really wasn’t. So, just because it isn’t happening to YOU specifically does not mean that there isn’t a bug and that it hasn’t happened to others.

    • My private messages that were made public were no longer in my inbox, it was like they’d been reclassified as wall posts, rather than just ‘shared’.

      I can’t speak for the other people that I’ve seen suddenly have a slew of private content appear on their wall (this isn’t as isolated as you seem to think), but this is the case for me anyway. There’s not really any way to ‘prove’ it – the proof for me was looking around my friends profiles and checking out the OBVIOUSLY private messages now showing up pre-2011.

      It’s hard to see it as a conspiracy when you’ve witnessed it and been a victim of it. Whatever goof Facebook have made here they’ve either made a massive f’uk up and don’t even realise it yet, or they’re engaging in some seriously sleazy cover up.

  22. I think the flaw lies in the thinking. If anybody ever believe that anything they put on Facebook was private then they were doomed from the start.

    I see people whining about privacy issues every day on FB. Really? You voluntarily put something on a website you don’t control and then complain when it gets exposed.

    I’d encourage a change of thought process. From day 1 I’ve never believed that anything on Facebook was private, or that I owned any of it. You should think like that for EVERY social network. Then you will not be shocked or appalled when you see things like this happening.

    • Thanks for chiming in Patrick. That is good advice – for tomorrow. Right now when you felt you had privacy and you found out you don’t – right now you need to do something more proactive than education. And that’s my hope. That everyone knows the action and can do it now.

      And tomorrow – they can be smarter because of it.

  23. *Claps*

    You have proof. And regardless of whether I believe your’s or not, I’ve seen it from a friend. Given the times, and how much you can trust others, especially on the internet, it goes a long way to get others to believe. My apologies for that. I will not admit to any wrong for questioning you validity however. Even less so given all the scams and other crap that goes around about Facebook and other sites, often either out right lies or people too lazy or stupid to use the provided privacy settings, or figure out that once posted to a free site, they lose most if not all expectation to privacy.
    Either way, good on you for trying to help others, next time for the IT minded, and skeptics, give proof of some sort with the initial story, you’ll help more people that way.
    To those with this issue, sorry you’re having to deal withit, screen shot it, submit it with personal info edited out to Facebook, or the media if you prefer, and lay on them to fix it. (to edit, windows Paint, or Gimp, are good, free programs, just scribble black over the stuff you want to hide.) To prevent it happening again, as I stated before, keep the private stuff in person, or on the phone at most, then you don’t have as much worry about it being shared publicly.
    Oh, and Phil, I know you can trace me by IP. Associates in Networking Technology and Bachelors in Computer Science, and I work Tech Support. Thus the need for proof. If we can’t see and reproduce the bug, it doesn’t exist or is user error.

    • Curtiss – Upon further review, I’m not sure these match. I have more to share. They are harder to clean up. I will do them soon. I removed the bad ones.

      I was a VP of IT for nearly 10 years. Our DBAs did lots of silly stuff and denied it, then flipped it back later on. I’ve learned to doubt – but verify. So I get that.

      More to come. I’m going to bed for now.

      • To be honest I didn’t look to closely. Did notice that you took the apology graciously, shows character, I can respect that, and you. I don’t do social media very much, and this is one of the biggest reasons, but if I need to confirm anything I’ll check back here, bookmarked your main page.

  24. The first screenshot is a message from someone named Michelle and the second screenshot is a wall post from someone named Teresa. It looks like the same chain mail going around at one time but someone PMed you it and another person posted it on the wall. Unless I’m misreading that…but please clarify this if I’m wrong. Thanks.

    • I think you’re right Sean, so I removed these and will add new ones in the morning once I get them cleaned up without personal info on them. Folks want their privacy – which is the real crux of this problem.

      I really hope I am wrong or the Facebook database analysts magically do something and pretend it was never wrong. :)

      • Right, but I hope you have different screenshots/proof and don’t just cover up the two names. My main point of the post was that they weren’t the same message. They looked like they were two separate posts from two separate people so they shouldn’t be used as proof.

  25. Thank you Phil for sharing that info.
    Facebook had a big ‘ooops’ moment with that.

  26. so, it seems to me that you are wrong. Even looking at your example PDF file. When someone write on your wall that IS NOT a private message. Anyone who visits your wall or who is friends with that person can see that post. If your profile is public then the world can see if. If you have taken precautions to turn it private and restrict access to friends only then only friends can see it. A post on your wall is not the same as a “Message” that is sent via the messages link, and what they are showing are clearly wall/timeline posts. You’re wrong.

  27. “Why isn’t Facebook (or the mainstream media) admitting to this problem?”

    Stop and think about it and you have your answer. Most big companies invested into Facebook stocks when it went live. The first day that insiders were finally allowed to sell those stocks happens to be the same day this went viral. These companies stand to lose millions when shares plummet (which they are).

    The bigger news groups siding with Facebook all have ties to each other. Techcrunch is owned by AOL, NBC is owned by Comcast who are partners with AOL. AOL has a partnership with Facebook.

    It’s like playing a twisted multi-billion dollar game of connect the dots.

    It’s managed to hit levels higher then media so it’s not all bad. Facebook was already in bad standing with Canadian and EU privacy rules, both are now looking into what happened and the EU is already drafting new laws because of it. Sadly countries in the EU are way better protected from Facebook and their crappy privacy policy. They have banned Facebook from using some of the sleazy marketing tactics they are using on the rest of the world (selling your info to ad companies, facial recognition,etc).

  28. Wow… I’d been asked by a friend on thursday if it was true and I wrote that it wasn’t because well, it wasn’t on her timeline. Then I checked my timeline (and then looked at it as my wife/coworkers/friends) and it’s totally there.

    Messages from my ex-wife, old girlfriends and old friends. Messages that I know were sent to my private inbox and not posted on my wall. Brings back memories, but didn’t need it to be published to all my friends.

  29. Fun reading this thread. It makes sense that people who cannot understand how Facebook works also cannot detect satire…

  30. This is true – I have seen private messages on my wall and on friends walls that I (and others) have sent to them. No idea why, but people who say it’s a lie are wrong! No argument about it! If any of us see it has happened – then it is happening! Even if it isn’t happening to everyone.

  31. This post proves absolutely nothing.

    If private messages were being posted on walls, they would also be in messages. Yet out of 900 million users, not one person has shown proof.

  32. How does that screenie prove anything, other than that people were less careful about posting on other folks’ walls in the past (which we already knew)?

    The trouble isn’t that there’s been some leak or glitch, it’s that people are suddenly aware of how public their wall can be, and find it hard to remember a time when people would actually converse via wall posts because no one cared enough to spy and your friends list comprised actual friends.

    Yes, people should go back and check they don’t have anything dodgy publicly viewable on their wall – posted by friends or themselves! – but that’s just common sense, and nothing to do with any claimed privacy breach.

  33. 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.

  34. I absolutely agree. I wrote a post yesterday about this exact same thing and I have screen shots to prove it. I do not understand why more people don’t realize this is happening:

  35. How is that link proof that it’s happening? All it shows is the timeline. It doesn’t show that those timeline posts are from his private messages. Poor evidence and poor sources. The fact he would even use that as evidence means it’s a hoax.

    • Yes, we do need historical evidence to confirm they were originally PMs, but just because it’s not shown here doesn’t automatically mean it’s a hoax. I had original thought of old data downloads, but it should be easier than that. If you receive and keep notification emails it’s easily proved or disproved. I’m not sure how notification worked in the past, but now if you receive a PM when you’re logged out of facebook you get an email from facebook with a header “New message from xxx”. If these are still in your inbox, in their original form somewhere like the hotmail server where they can’t be modified, and the times and message text match exactly is that enough proof? If they were wall posts the notification email would be “xxx posted on your Wall”. Are there any notifications (which can, if necessary, be verified as unmodified original copies)?

  36. It’s still happening, I see one friends pm to another already. I have no clue what FB is doing. I was shocked a year ago when I joined in on a conversation only to have my cousin ask me how I was doing it when they were using the private messanger! I’ve had this happen a few times. Booo FaceBook.

  37. Lee Larry says:

    Yes THIS IS HAPPENING!!! This has happened to my friend and to myself and i deactivated my account immediately!!! She can not as quite a lot of her personal contacts are connected with facebook so for her it’s a good deal of her life – most shocking is that her BF who is not on facebook until recently got a random reference to her profile looked into it and saw messages implying she is cheating on him. Those messages were from before they were together but appeared as if they were recent!!!! Disgusting !!! Facebook is utterly disgusting!!!!

  38. how do you change what public can see on my fb timeline? cause i used view my profile as the public and it showed pictures that i liked , things i shared , posts/ statuses / what i got on games etc … please reply

  39. Now Facebook informed us that things we hide from Timeline can be seen by others anyway. Delete them.


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