Are Your Private Facebook Messages Really Private?

The good thing about Facebook is that you can either talk to your friends ‘publicly’ (via their wall) or simply message them privately. Many of us use the latter option for sharing videos and links with selected audience. The flabbergasting fact is that someone is keeping an eye on your private chat as well.

Yes, Facebook is tracking down the number of links of pages that are shared either publicly or in private. Not only do they are monitored regularly, they are also added to the total number of ‘Likes’ a page has.

Reportedly, a bug is responsible for showing double likes for every link shared privately (source: TheNextWeb). Though some authorities at Facebook also conformed of this bug, however, they also quoted that Facebook Developers Page clearly states that the number of Facebook ‘Likes’ is a sum of the following components:

  • Actual likes of the URL
  • The number of shares of this URL (including copy/pasting)
  • The number of comments and likes related to this URL
  • The number of private or inbox messages which contains this URL

Facebook’s stand on this double liking status is:

“We did recently find a bug with our social plugins where at times the count for the Share or Like goes up by two, and we are working on fix to solve the issue now. To be clear, this only affects social plugins off of Facebook and is not related to Facebook Page likes. This bug does not impact the user experience with messages or what appears on their timelines”– (source: TheNextWeb)

This certainly has raised some questions regarding the original data that reflects how many people actually like a link.

For example, if I do not agree to the content of a link and want to share my opinions with a friend privately, the chances are that Facebook will consider it to be my likeliness and it will reflect in the total ‘Likes’. However, in reality, I do not like it. It is just that I am sharing my thoughts with my friends and not telling them that I see an eye to eye with the content of a link shared.

When asked to clarify the situation, Facebook responded:

“Absolutely no private information has been exposed and Facebook is not automatically Liking any Facebook Pages on a user’s behalf.

Many websites that use Facebook’s ‘Like’, ‘Recommend’, or ‘Share’ buttons also carry a counter next to them. This counter reflects the number of times people have clicked those buttons and also the number of times people have shared that page’s link on Facebook. When the count is increased via shares over private messages, no user information is exchanged, and privacy settings of content are unaffected. Links shared through messages do not affect the Like count on Facebook Pages” (source: TheNextWeb)

The Facebook Team is no stranger to technical faults like this. They are working to fix it and I hope it will be done soon. On the other hand, issues like this create a question mark on the privacy of messages and indicate towards the violation of the agreement between a user and the social networking website. In this situation, the need of an overhauling cannot be ignored.

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