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France calls for answers in Facebook privacy uproar

Latest update : 2012-09-25

France's government called for answers Monday after French Facebook users reported seeing private messages displayed on their "Timeline" profiles, accessible to all Facebook friends. Facebook says these were wall posts, which have always been public.

Facebook users across France rushed to check their accounts Monday, after a newspaper reported private messages from 2007 to 2009 were appearing in public timelines.

Exchanges meant to be between individuals or small groups were allegedly visible to all friends linked to an account, as well as anyone the user’s settings permitted to see their public “journal”.

The bug was reportedly “not systematic”, meaning only certain users were affected.

The report spurned a flurry of activity on Twitter, making the hashtag #bugfacebook a trending topic, but the outcry appears to have been limited to France.

Facebook said it investigated the complaints but denied there was a breach of privacy.

“A small number of users raised concerns after what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their Timeline,” the California-based social network said in an email response to an inquiry by Agence France-Presse.

“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 remained adamant that messages at issue were “wall” posts that have always been open to viewing by others, which were not made with private messaging tools subsequently added to the service.

But French government officials sought more answers.

Arnaud Montebourg and Fleur Pellerin, two ministers in France’s Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industry, said they had made “several exchanges with Facebook France concerning a possible technical failure” in the system.

In a statement published overnight, Montebourg and Pellerin demanded “clear and transparent explanations be given as soon as possible” to clarify “the exact nature of the problem”.

For the ministers, the incident “underlines yet again the importance of the protection of private information in the digital age and the lack of transparency in the manner which certain players, including Facebook, treat such information.

“The ministers therefore call on Facebook to account for the incident with the National Commission on Information and Freedom, which protects the personal information of our citizens.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-09-25

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