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How to hide "private messages" on your Facebook timeline

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Facebook might have had some users believing their pre-2009 private messages popped up on their public timeline, but the perceived privacy flaw is not as clear as it seems.

The company claims that people who say they’re seeing old private messages made visible to everyone are actually just spotting old posts that friends posted on their walls, adding that since comments and likes did not appear on wall posts prior to 2008, users often posted on each other’s walls in a back-and-forth manner.

Since only one side of the conversation is visible, some users may have believed that a bug caused their private messages to be exposed to the world, Facebook suggested.

The initial reports emanated from France, where TechCrunch notes that the country-wide roll out of the Timeline-style profile was completed Monday, which may have caused concern for some who haven’t seen those posts in years.

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine reported that Facebook’s messaging and wall post systems are completely separate. Reuters Social Media Editor Anthony De Rosa argued the contrary to Facebook’s claims, tweeting that wall posts were mixed with private messages on his timeline.

In any case, with a hat tip to David Langer, you can hide these old posts from your timeline if you’d prefer not to delete them. Here’s how:

1) Access your Privacy Settings.

2) Click on the Timeline and Tagging section.

3) From the “Who can see what others post on your timeline” setting, click the Custom option.

4) In the drop-down menu, change “Make this visible” to “Only me.”

While this will mean that no one else will be able to see anything a friend has posted on your timeline, you can take solace in the fact that no one will be able to see your potentially embarrassing old wall posts either.

Elsewhere in Facebook drama, the company’s teamed up with a data firm to track whether you’re actually buying things when you click on Facebook ads.

After all this privacy kerfuffle, perhaps the sleek new Myspace will have the last laugh after all.

Photo by mikebaird/Flickr