All around the world – including in the Netherlands – Facebook users are worried about old private messages showing up very publicly on the social network. A Facebook bug or have members become more privacy-conscious?

Some Facebook users reported that private messages sent between 2007 and 2009 have been appearing publicly on profiles. The social network, however, has denied those claims, insisting that these messages are actually just older wall posts that had always been visible to the public.

Not a technical bug?!

According to the social network, publishing private messages publicly on a user’s timeline is technically impossible, as no mechanism had ever been created to allow for the two areas of data to get mixed up.  

Private messages going public

And yet, some international students at the Erasmus University are convinced that old private material has appeared on their timeline. “I remember exchanging phone numbers with some fellow students via private messages. Some of these now seem to appear on my timeline,” said Katharina Malinowski, a Strategic Management student.  

Increasingly privacy-conscious

Other international Erasmus students believe that the way people use Facebook has simply changed. “People viewed wall posts very differently back in 2007. They didn’t really think about the consequences public posts might have in the future. But Facebook has become increasingly popular in the last few years – so people have become more aware of their privacy online too,” said Megha Pandit, a Finance student.

Perceptions of online privacy

Students’ overall perceptions of online privacy seem to be diverse. Some have never put personal and incriminating information on the Internet. Others have done so – they either do not care if Facebook or other social networking sites use their information or they do not believe that anyone will care enough to actually find it.


Either way, the hype around the potential Facebook bug is a timely reminder that it is worth going through old posts to consider if old messages are still appropriate for the public domain. Users can set all public posts to only friends, hide the activity from the Timeline or delete it altogether. NL