Update at 5:30PM EST: How to remove all your old Facebook wall posts, public or private, from your Timeline

Facebook has been accused of inadvertently publishing private messages on users’ Timeline profiles from the years 2007, 2008, 2009, and possibly even earlier. The issue was first reported by Metro France, but soon reports from all over over started to flood in. Facebook has denied the claims, saying the posts in questions are indeed old Wall posts, but readers are saying otherwise.

A quick check with my The Next Web colleagues around the world shows that this issue isn’t happening to everyone. At first it looked as if English-speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada were not affected, but a closer look seems to show this isn’t necessarily true. At least one reader from the UK says it is happening to them as well.

It’s thus very possible this privacy screwup has nothing to do with where you are, as Facebook sometimes tests (and breaks) things with randomly-selected users. That being said, the reports first started in France, and Anna Heim, one of our reporters from France, confirmed that she is seeing the problem.

Here is a screenshot of private messages she sent to her friends, posted publicly on her Timeline:

If you are seeing this problem, please let us know where you are located. You may also want to hide all your messages by clicking on the drop-down arrow in the top right, clicking on Privacy Settings, clicking on Timeline and Tagging (Edit Settings), and making sure nothing is set to Public.

You can also change settings here to Custom (Only Me) if you want to be absolutely certain your private messages aren’t visible to people they shouldn’t be. This is a temporary solution, however, as these private messages should not be appearing on Facebook Timelines.

I have contacted Facebook about this issue. I will update you if and when I hear back.

Update at 2:00PM EST: Reports are coming in from readers all over the world (not just France and the UK) saying private messages have appeared on their Timeline. It’s important to note the difference between messages that were posted on your Wall way back when, and that Facebook is highlighting on your Timeline in the Friends box, compared to private messages that should not be there. Facebook will have a tough time differentiating between the two types of reports as panic ensues.

Update at 2:30PM EST: Facebook has told the BBC that these are older messages that were always present on users’ profiles, before and after Timeline. “Facebook is satisfied that there has been no breach of user privacy,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.

Update at 2:55PM EST: Just like Anna Heim, readers are finding Facebook’s statement hard to believe. They are pointing to addresses and phone numbers appearing on their Timeline, as well as showing up on their friends’ Timelines, which would have only been sent as private messages. I have contacted Facebook again for further information.

Update at 3:25PM EST: TechCrunch has received a longer statement from Facebook. Again the company is denying the claims:

Every report we’ve seen, we’ve gone back and checked. We haven’t seen one report that’s been confirmed. A lot of the confusion is because before 2008 there were no likes and no comments on wall posts. People went back and forth with wall posts instead of having a conversation [via comments].

A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline. Our engineers investigated these reports and found that the messages were older wall posts that had always been visible on the users’ profile pages. Facebook is satisfied that there has been no breach of user privacy.

Despite this, we’re still getting more and more reports from readers insisting their private messages sent to and from friends are appearing on their Timelines. It looks to me as if users are confused as to what is happening, and Facebook’s history isn’t helping the situation.

Update at 5:30PM EST: How to remove all your old Facebook wall posts, public or private, from your Timeline

Image credit: stock.xchng