Have you ever wondered if your message recipients are the only eyes that view your Facebook messages? On Oct. 4, The Next Web’s technology journalist Emil Protalinski claimed a new Facebook finding.
“Sending a link in a Facebook private message increases the Like counter on the link’s originating third-party website. This would suggest Facebook is scanning your private messages for shared links to Web pages with Like buttons, so it can increase the number of corresponding Likes for those pages. Facebook confirmed this information with me today, though it did emphasize this only happens for third-party websites with Facebook plugins, not Facebook Pages,” wrote Protalinski in a press release.
It has become a known fact that the Like counters on Facebook are a sum of much more than simply the number of Likes by Facebook users. Facebook, Inc. released a statement to counter any misunderstandings of the privacy setting.
“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,” said Facebook representatives.
WMU students had varied responses.
“I did know about this issue. I don’t think that it’s a new issue – it’s the same thing as email providers being able to read emails before getting to their destination or cell phone companies being able to scan texts – it’s been an issue for at least the last 10 years. I think it’s just something that people need to be conscious of,” said WMU junior and Finance major Eric LaForge.
“No, I didn’t know about this. Scanning private messages is a deceptive action for Facebook to take, but yeah, for sure I’ll continue to use Facebook,” said junior Occupational Therapy major Michelle Lesiak.
“It’s kind of shocking and unsettling that Facebook does that to get more likes on their pages,” said Arts Management sophomore Alex Anderson.
“It is a common practice to scan messages for legitimate reasons, as Google does it too,” said Greg Lozeau, Director of Internet Technology Policy and Communications at WMU. He said lot of people opt for using other e-mail accounts instead of the message account provided to its users by Facebook.
“Users need to be careful what personal information they release to websites, because once they have that information, they can do whatever they want with it,” said Lozeau.