I don't think that private messages can transform into wall posts with such ease. This would have to be intentional, it's not a simple click of a switch that can do something like some are thinking that is occurring.
True, I wouldn't give Facebook a free pass on this alone.
Is it really so hard to imagine that somebody, somewhere fudged a query and accidentally ran [pseudo-SQL] "UPDATE posts SET type='status' WHERE type='private-message' AND date = 'x' TO 'y'"?
I'll admit, it's a bit of a stretch; but the fact that these show up as wall posts is not necessarily an indication that there is no bug.
The bug may very well be that data has been manipulated to look like wall posts.
Unless Facebook discloses that these posts were flagged as "status updates" _in an archived version of their dataset_ (specifically an archive before the issue first manifested), this information means practically nothing. We could gather from the bug itself that these were flagged as wall posts in FB's backend.
No one is giving Facebook a free pass. We currently have no evidence whatsoever of a bug. On the other hand, we do know that wall posts could not be commented on pre-2009. Informal conversations were carried out with quick exchanges of wall posts. The whole conversation could be viewed with the "wall-to-wall" link. We used Facebook in a different way back then, and the conversations reflect that. If you have email notifications confirming that a private message is now public then please let us know. So far every person to check their records has found that there was no bug, they merely forgot how Facebook used to be.
According to one Facebook employee, private messages are stored on an entirely different system (MYSQL vs HBase). This seems perfectly reasonable, and precludes the possibility of a bad SQL query leaking private messages. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4567009
- Wall posts didn’t have comments in those days (nor did they have a “like” button. Can you believe it?) Conversations were all about the “wall-to-wall”.
- Chat didn’t exist, and messaging was used much less frequently. So wall posts were used for things that would be private messages now.
- Most importantly, our attitude to public wall posts was very different.
It’s the last point that’s most important. It’s hard to remember, but the current massive controversies around social media privacy were barely on the radar a few years ago. The subsequent change in attitudes is partly due to Facebook making their platform more “open”, and partially due to raising concerns amongst users.
For example, you didn’t have to worry about your posts being read by the general public – that wasn’t even an option back in 2008. You did, of course, have to worry about your mum reading about your drunken misadventures. But even that felt like much less of an issue than it does now. People hadn’t yet learned to self-censor.
The best analogy I can think of: old Facebook was like having some friends around at your own house. Though you probably wouldn’t prance about naked or insult people to their face, you’d feel comfortable dressing down or trading off-colour jokes. New Facebook is more like a social gathering in a public place – still friendly and informal, but you have to be much more careful to present a respectable image and avoid saying anything offensive.
I think Zuck was right when he said that people would adapt to a world with less privacy and more “transparency” – people adapted, and became more polite, bland and inoffensive as a result. “I never would have posted something like that on my wall”, they say, and really mean it.