Facebook: If anything was exposed, likely it was how little we trust it - Macleans.ca

Facebook: If anything was exposed, likely it was how little we trust it

Is the glitch with the social network or with its users’ brains?


(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Either Facebook has screwed up bad, or the world is experiencing a paranoid delusion, en masse.

Metro France broke the story (first time I’ve said that) earlier today. It seems that private messages from users’ Facebook archives have popped up on their public timelines! Metro says they confirmed that the glitch has exposed user to user mail from 2007-2009 on some smattering of accounts. As word of this breach went viral on Twitter, Facebook users worldwide raced to their screens to see if they were affected, and new reports of compromised accounts began popping up in country after country.

Except that it may have never happened. Facebook has announced that after investigating the matter, they are satisfied that nothing happened at all. Afflicted users say this is impossible, and point to revealing public messages containing phone numbers and addresses as proof.

Here’s a likely scenario: someone was navel-gazing into their digital past and was shocked to see something on public display that they were absolutely certain was a private message. Except that it wasn’t.

Once this patient-zero user yelled “fire!” on a crowded Internet, thousands scoured their own Timeline in a paranoid tizzy, and surprise! A handful of users also discovered public posts they could swear were originally private. I checked my own timeline when I heard about the “leak,” and though I found things online from 2008 that I wish I had never made public, the fact is I kinda know that I did.

That’s my best guess: we exposed ourselves, we forgot about it, we saw it years later and are now blaming Facebook. Perhaps a real glitch will be revealed, at which point I will eat these words. But at this early moment, I’m thinking that nothing was exposed here except how little we trust Facebook, and how little we understand the extent to which we compromise ourselves on it every day.

Follow Jesse on Twitter @JesseBrown


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Facebook: If anything was exposed, likely it was how little we trust it

  1. Now, this is an interesting case of Big Brother telling you,
    based on its Big Brother authority, that what you actually see is not what you
    see: you are delusional, and the whole thing is a mass delusion like the Apollo
    11 Moon landing. Of course, it does not hurt that along the road this will keep
    the share prises stable and the shareholders happy.

    • WTF are you talking about? Read what you wrote – it makes no sense at all.

      You know other people occasionally read what other people have written on the internet, and gibberish like you wrote here takes more brain power to read than a thoughtful one. The brain strains to make sense of what it must finally accept is nonsense.

      Don’t waste other people’s brain power.

      • You are having difficulties? With your brain capacity? No wonder … YSI

  2. A few months back I had responded to a private message that I had viewed on my Blackberry. I had replied back on my phone, to the private message.. AND it post my reply on my wall as a post…. NOT as a private message! I will no longer reply to messages on my phone. This happened more than once!!!

  3. Except that that’s not true. I saw it happen to a friend of mine. An entire private message thread plain as day on her timeline. Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

  4. If people discover their mistakes – thoughtlessly posting personal information in a non-private setting – then notice afterward, exactly what percentage of such people will attempt to cover up the mistake by accusing Facebook (or some other network) of a privacy breach vs. simply shutting up and hoping nobody notices vs. attempting to contact the network privacy admin/tech support to have the information deleted? And how many of that same group, when told by Facebook that the private information was posted by the user (inadvertently) publicly in the first place, will then get angry at Facebook and holler publicly? Facebook makes all sorts of asinine moves and stupid mistakes, but so do users. The problem we face is that the lines of conduct are blurred and too often we no longer have any easy way of sorting out which networks and which users are telling the truth in any given situation. Dumb User Error (DUE) is just as prevalent, perhaps more so, than Arrogant Network Usability Syndrome (ANUS).