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Summary:

A French tabloid set off a temporary worldwide panic that Facebook had published the private messages of its users. France’s privacy regulator has now accepted the company’s explanation that this didn’t happen — but did blame Facebook for stirring up confusion.

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After French newspapers set off a 24-hour privacy panic over Facebook messages, the country’s privacy regulator moved quickly to tamp down the furor.

After interviewing Facebook executives for three hours on Tuesday, France’s Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés is now debunking rumors of a privacy bug in Timeline, the Facebook feature that shows a user’s personal chronology.

The investigation came after the French tabloid Metro reported on Monday that private messages were appearing unexpectedly on users’ Timelines. The rest of the European press and some US tech blogs quickly repeated the allegations, leading to widespread fear that Facebook had exposed people’s personal lives.

The French privacy regulator, however, has now accepted Facebook’s explanation that the “messages” were simply old public Wall posts that became visible once more. According to a report yesterday in Le Figaro, French ministers had initially proposed that the regulator file a complaint with the public prosecutor. Now, any legal action appears to be out of the question.

The CNIL did, however, find that Facebook’s decision to make the old Wall posts visible with relatively little notice had led to confusion among users.

Le Figaro adds that the French ministers have accepted the explanation, but stated that Facebook’s actions had stirred up “a lot of emotion” among users. They also said the matter highlighted the importance of protecting personal data and showed a lack of data transparency by actors like Facebook.

(Image by InfinityPhoto via Shutterstock)

  1. I love how they simply “now accepted Facebook’s explanation that the “messages” were simply old public Wall posts that became visible once more.” Because investigating is useless when you can have an upstanding ‘person’ like a corporation assure you everything is all right.

    As someone who thought this was bunko to begin with, my view was very quickly changed when I saw very private, SEXUAL messages I said to my spouce on my timeline. Given that my children are friends of both our accounts, I can – with 100% assurity – attest that this is real. We do NOT discuss our sex lives on our public walls. Ever.

    And a corporation covering thier own flaw in programming by claiming that “everyone else’s memory is flawed” simply does not hold water in the least.

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    1. I agree. I’ve been researching this for a few days since finding private messages my sister had sent and I witnessed posted publicly. This is not a “rumor” or ignorant part on the user! And Facebook needs to grow some balls and instead of making lame excuses I sure hope they are working on solving the issue. I didn’t see anything on my account personally but a couple nonembarassing posts but I stilll deleted my account. The posts on my sisters account were private messages from last week…explain this Facebook

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  2. I always hate when crazy left wing extremist trolls on comment boards called people Sheeple. But this is the only way to describe this situation. Are there no journalists out there with their own Facebook accounts? It will take them about 15 minutes to realize Facebook is feeding them garbage. They may be classified as wall posts now, but it’s clear that what were once chat/private messages, are now visible amongst wall posts on your timeline. My memory goes back far enough to remember having a chat conversation with someone a few years ago.

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  3. i dont believe facebook is looking out for its users. Ive had both my private messages on my wall and then also put into a cousins email. If there is a service that is called private messages why change everything on your users without notice. It is also remarkable the posts showing up are some of the most private! I don’t believe this is a rumour, I have deactivated my account and will never trust that site again.

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  4. This is not rumor! My friend’s private message has been displayed in public which was really embarrassing and due to this, she deactivated her account. Facebook needs to fix it soon!

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  5. You all know that your fb private messages are all monitored, right?

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