Are private messages from 2010 and earlier visible on your Facebook wall?

Another Facebook privacy rumor has been spreading, this time claiming that your private inbox messages are appearing in your timeline:

All private messages from 2010 and earlier are all visible on your Facebook wall! This could get VERY awkward, very quickly…this is a new change from Facebook as of 28/09/2012. Don’t believe me?

Read your timeline from those years…

But do not worry; this is not true. Facebook has confirmed there is no such bug, and what people think are old private messages on the Timeline are simply a reflection of how Facebook, and our use of it, has changed over the years.

Read on to find out why the rumor is mistaken, and how you can spot a viral message or scam.

The world before 2010 – how we used to Facebook.

In the past, there was no commenting on wall posts, so no threaded conversations. We used to post on a friend’s wall, and they’d reply by posting on ours. Years later, we can’t see the conversation, and these days more of us have conversations using Messages, in private. Here’s what I see from 2010:

The rumor continues:

There’s an easy fix – when you’re in your own Timeline, just click on the year on the right (2007, 2008, 2009) and on your own Timeline straight under that year you’ll see a box with a bunch of friends’ messages… These are NOT wall posts They are Private Messages! REPOST and make sure your friends get onto this as you deleting the conversations on your end doesn’t ensure the conversations are deleted completely; messages may still appear on your friends’ walls!

The launch of Timeline.

When Timeline was announced, Facebook advised all users to preview it, and see if there was anything you wanted to hide. This acknowledged that how we use Facebook has changed. I’m sure most people, me included, would be surprised about what they used to share on Facebook walls!
Timeline changed how this was presented, but didn’t make anything public that wasn’t before. If you have never checked your Timeline history, I would recommend it.

How to check if private messages are on your Timeline.

The rumor claims the messages in the above image ‘are NOT wall posts They are Private Messages!’ We can test this, by finding the corresponding notification email. I have checked many of my old wall posts, and none of them have corresponding emails saying ‘X friend sent you a message.’ All of the messages on my wall were indeed wall posts, and I have notification emails from Facebook confirming this.

No-one has been able to provide this proof that their private messages have been published on their Timelines, even though, as you can see, it’s easy to check!

An easy way to check Facebook rumors.

If you ever see a shared message making a shocking claim about Facebook privacy, or something similar, there is an easy way to check it out. Simply copy the first couple of sentences of the message, then paste it into Google. You’ll quickly find reputable sources discussing the rumor, and you’ll be able to see whether it’s true or not. Facebook is an ideal platform for quickly spreading rumors, and often the facts get lost in all the noise. It’s an unfortunate truth that we can’t always trust what our Facebook friends share!

For more on spotting untrue rumors and scams on Facebook, read my earlier article.

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