How big was Facebook’s recent privacy glitch?

Kim LaCapria - Author

Jun. 15 2013, Updated 9:57 p.m. ET

It was like PostSecret.

Except it wasn’t random postcards, it was whole emails. And instead of people knowingly sending their darkest secrets and innermost feelings anonymously to a guy who vets them and posts them, their Facebook messages flooded the inboxes of others, revealing all manner of sexual impulse, romantic heartache and tractor accident to an undisclosed number of users. One of those affected users happens to write for the Wall Street Journal, and instead of being stingy with the juice, Zachary Seward shares with the class. Thank you, Zachary.

Calling the “errant messages” he received “totally fascinating,” Seward teased us with a new choice niblets from his gossip buffet:

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Kelly has applied for a job at Starbucks. Michelle’s brother sliced his head open in a harrowing tractor accident. A Milwaukee native is “sooo mad at annabelle.” Middle schoolers in Georgia have a quiz today on Newton’s Laws. And in Kentucky, weekend plans are solidifying: “we need to go to that place and get alcohol. ALSO GET TOGETHER AT MY HOUSE FRIDAY NIGHT. COME.”

I learned that people still use o_O to indicate they’re confused and that “no stalk” means you’re not stalking someone — as in, “no stalk but your formspring stuff has been coming up on my feed.”Much of the chatter referred to Facebook itself, like the teenager who wrote, “look at [so-and-so’s] wall and the convo she has on her statuses with TIM!”

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Seward reports that far and away, the bulk of messages received in error by him that night dealt with love, loving and lovers. Apparently, Facebook is an important tool in many modern relationships. Lucky Zach was even on the receiving end of a steamy chat session, which may have been a porn goldmine had he been a woman.

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But alas, some commenters did not take the subsequent dish session in the spirit in which it was intended. Which is sad, because if we have proven one thing as people-on-the-internet, we excel at stopping and staring. It is our achilles heel and our greatest uniting interest. We like watching stars shagging, whales eating people, the bodies of pop culture icons being carried off, texts from last night, nip slips and sports reporters getting dressed. We are good at one thing collectively: bearing witness. Who among us would have resisted such an opportunity, besides Zach Seward’s morally bragging readers?

If we’ve not embraced the idea that our biggest secrets may or may not have already hit the interwebs at large, perhaps we should. An informal poll at the bottom of Seward’s piece suggests that nearly ten percent of the almost 1200 people who voted were in receipt of errant inbox messages. We’re all a hair’s breadth away from becoming the next FailBlog entry or Digg front page sensation, and the only protection is to remain really, really boring.

[Image] [via snopes]


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