Facebook ‘privacy breach’: Misperception-cum-meme?

The “news” that people’s private Facebook messages were appearing on their “walls” spread like wildfire earlier this week, but Slate reports that it’s more meme than news. It all started in France, where users complained about finding private messages posted between 2007 and ’09 on their profiles pages, but news outlets reported that “the issue is not systematic and affects only certain accounts.” Then Facebook investigated and issued this statement: “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.”

Slate posted an interesting theory about what might’ve caused the confusion: how users viewed wall posts back in Facebook Jurassic times (2007) vs. how we view them now. Think about it: Literally hundreds of millions of people have joined the service since 2007, exponentially growing the sheer volume of sharing around the world. That changes the way we think about social media and information sharing all by itself; then you add in cultural and generational diversity where sharing is concerned, not to mention changes in the Facebook experience (including sharing and privacy) for users. Back in 2007, Slate says, “we viewed wall posts … more as items we were sharing personally and directly with friends than posts that most of the world could see. In retrospect, those items might now look as though they were private, when in fact they were just the old way we did wall posts. Still, there seem to have been a whole lot of French people who were fairly positive that old private messages were appearing on their walls, and not old public wall posts.” What’s your Facebook reality?

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