French government orders Facebook to answer privacy bug claims
The French government has summoned Facebook bosses to explain an alleged bug that users claim meant old private messages were visible on their public Timeline page. Facebook denies that any confidential matter appeared but the charges spread panic among users, especially in France.
“Clear and transparent explanations must be given without delay,” declared Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg and Digital Economy Minister Fleur Pellerin in a joint statement Tuesday morning.
The panic started on Monday afternoon when the Metro freesheet reported on its website that text messages had alerted one of its journalists that private messages from 2007-2009 were mysteriously appearing on their Facebook wall.
Postings ranging from “I left they key under the doormat” to evidence of possible or actual infidelity were popping up either on users’ walls or in the “friends posted on …
timeline” box, it was claimed.
Social media, notably Twitter, was packed with messages confirming the claim, mostly but not exclusively from French users and French media, ranging from other freesheets to the authoritative daily Le Monde, published reports of the scare.
After being notified by Metro and other users, Facebook investigated the rumour and denied that private messages had been made public.
"Facebook is satisfied that there has been no breach of user privacy." it told the BBC and a source at the company said that it is technically impossible for private messages to be published on the timeline or wall.
Users have forgotten how they used Facebook four years ago, the company claims, and have taken messages they posted publicly for private ones.
France is the most recent country where Timeline has been introduced.
Metro was standing by its story on Tuesday morning and Facebook management in France was set to appear before the privacy watchdog Cnil on Tuesday.
“This incident underlines once again the importance of protecting personal information in the digital universe and the lack of transparency in the management of information by actors such as Facebook,” the ministers’ statement says.
Facebook users can check whether their messages posted on their wall by searching for email notification which was always sent at the time in question.
Facebook shares fell 11 points on Monday but the tumble was apparently caused by a report in the influential journal Barron’s that its stock was only worth 15 dollars (11.6 euros) rather than the privacy scare.