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Did Facebook Release Your Private Information?

Facebook. (J. Green/TSM)

Monday afternoon, we posted a story about Facebook inadvertently publishing many users’ private messages in their Timeline history. Facebook subsequently claimed the mix-up was a false alarm: people were mis-remembering old wall posts as private messages.

Many Facebook users, however, continued to claim they had in fact had private messages released into the wild. I remain uncertain about my own Timeline page – which remains locked down at this point. So did Facebook mess up, or not?

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter. Indeed, I think this could be a good thing, if it makes people re-think what they’re posting on Facebook and elsewhere online. (Apologies to you if something major leaked today – credit card number, that sort of thing. I hope it didn’t, but as they say, ‘The burnt hand remembers best.’)

Keep in mind that Facebook legally owns whatever information you care to share with them. Photos? Facebook was keeping them for years, though they seem to have ended that particular practice. If you use apps within the Facebook universe – and almost all of us do, whether we realize it or not – your data is probably in a third party’s hands and will remain there even after you remove the app, unless you explicitly ask them to remove it.

Google (motto: “Don’t be evil”) appears to be a little better than Facebook in this regard, but they’re still out to make a buck off of your data.

So remember, as we’ve pointed out before: just about anything on the internet, whether it exists behind security of some sort or not, should always be considered potentially public. Never trust this:

Maybe. Maybe not. (J. Green/TSM)

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