General Question

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

How private are messages between you and one of your "friends" on Facebook?

Asked by MRSHINYSHOES (13928 points ) January 9th, 2011

I’ve always wondered about the level of privacy when it comes to Facebook——in particular, messages that you send to a friend on Facebook, and messages he/she sends back to you. Although FB says “between you and such and such”, I wonder if anyone else can read the messages you send to each other?

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25 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

You mean like another friend, or like the staff of Facebook?

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@papayalily To another friend.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES They’re actually private.

Disc2021's avatar

Golden rule on the internet: There is NO such thing as privacy online.

Okay yeah, no one else can read a message between you and another person, but who’s to say the person is the only one logging into their Facebook page? They could have a knowsy partner or ex that still has their password, or a “stalker” on their hands. Or, they could willingly share their password with other close friends of theirs and what not. A little far fetched – but what suppose the event that they leave themselves signed into Facebook at work or at school and someone else comes prying around the corner when they leave?

I’m going to paraphrase something a professor of mine once said that seems to hold true to this day: “There is no privacy online. Every time you go online, pretend you’re walking out in the mall and that everyone is watching you. Even if they aren’t, someone somewhere has the ability to get access.”

I say this not to flag myself as some sort of conspiracy theorist but just to remind of what the internet actually is. Best policy is, if you truly have something private to say to someone, you may want to say it in person or over the phone.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Disc2021 Because no one can listen over the phone…

AceSpadez's avatar

Messages on facebook are private. Just make sure you trust the friend your messaging enough to keep it to themselves!

JLeslie's avatar

They are private, but my mom always says, if you want no one to know, don’t write it down.

Disc2021's avatar

@papayalily I didn’t say privacy is guaranteed over the phone or even in person – but I’d put my money on both methods being a hell of a lot more private than sending messages around online, regardless of which “social network” you’re using.

snowberry's avatar

In the USA, We all know the government now has access to everything over the internet, or over the phone. Don’t believe anything is private anymore. That’s what the homeland security act is about. They can gain access to anything you consider private, whether online, on the phone, in your business, on your person, or in your home.

downtide's avatar

In theory they are private. There’s nothing to prevent your friend copy/pasting the message and sending it off to others. Presumably Facebook staff also have access to them, because they are obliged by law to give them to the government, if the government asks for them.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

As private as wikileaks allows it to be.
It is only a matter of time before all information on facebook is stolen and made public for all to see. Hopefully thatll make people question putting their entire lives on the internet.

I love the skit that SNL did on Zuckerberg winning Times Man of the Year. The man acting as Assange put it best, “I give you information on corporations and govt and Im a criminal. Facebook sells all of your information to corporations and he is man of the year.”

janbb's avatar

I basically don’t trust FB much, I think they are fairly unscrupulous and I wouldn’t say anything really intimate there. I have had more private chats PMing here.

Lightlyseared's avatar

The cryptoanarchist in me says that anything stored on someone else’s servers in plain text in basically public.

john65pennington's avatar

I do not trust Facebook or any other site for privacy. if it’s sent into outerspace, i guarantee you that your messages are not private. somebody, somewhere is just waiting to hack into your private(ha) conversations and use your information for their own benefit. i also do not trust Facebook, because of its many viruses. its not uncommon for my computer to shutdown, when my wife is on their site. my antivirus program is working and defends my computer by shutting down.

Hey, ShinyShoes, how are you? have not heard from you in a while. everything okay?

jerv's avatar

It’s only private as long as nobody cares to look too hard. The only privacy we have in the Information Age is that chances are that nobody cares about you; security through obscurity.

@john65pennington I’ve never had a virus issue from Facebook specifically. Then again, I block much of the third-party stuff with other software, so it never even gets to my AV. Sounds to me like you have other issues (again).

downtide's avatar

I never heard of a virus from FB but years ago I visited Myspace and I got a virus from there. Never went back. I guess FB applications & games can carry viruses, but if you don’t allow them on your profile they can’t harm you.

vikachka's avatar

You know what? Everything you write or E-mail, somebody is always watching and reading what you are writing. They do that so if anything goes wrong like a threat to someone or something worse. They can file against you in the court of law. It’s printable and can be dangerous in certain ways. Somebody can even find out everything about you and where you live. It can be scary.! Nothing is private. If you want to talk about something, meet up with them. I’ll tell you something, When i was about 16, 17yrs old. I was at my brothers house chatting online. and never said where i live or anything, can be scary. This person found out everything about me. Found out my brothers and sister name and phone numbers, he even flew from Chigago to find me. Well he did! Told my brother and we locked up the place. Probably should of called the police. That was so scary… I don’t ever chat on chatting sites no more after that… I don’t know if this is one. But i feel ok. Just be careful and don’t always let peaple on your facebook that you don’t know. Don’t put your address or something they can find you. I have facebook, but im very careful. Only my friends and family! Good luck and god bless..

downtide's avatar

@vikachka nobody actually reads and watches everything that everybody writes or sends online. No law enforcement agency in the world has enough spare money to be able to waste resources on doing that. What they can do though, is during the course of a criminal investigation, subpoena what you write.

Another thing is, if you have a trojan or keylogger on your system, someone could in theory see everything that you write. In practise though, your keystrokes would be monitored by a “bot” (software program) to pick out only usernames and passwords. However in doing that, and logging in to the various accounts you own, a criminal could almost certainly identify you.

My guess about the cyberstalker that you had online is either that somehow you had a keylogger and the stalker had access to the results (did he ever give you something to download, a game, video, or anything?), or – more likely – some other person that knows you let slip (possibly without even realising it) enough details about you that you could be identified.

The weakest security link in computer sysyems is always the part between the keyboard and the chair, and its not always your keyboard or your chair.

jerv's avatar

@downtide Correct; most computer problems are caused not by hardware or software, but by wetware.

vikachka's avatar

well maybe not everything, but people can find out what your saying, even hack into your profile if they are smart enough! No i never got any pictures or games, but it was kinda weird. Maybe he new how to hack into my info i don’t know. i guess anything is possible.

vikachka's avatar

@downtide what is wetware? Some kind of software that someone can hack into?

jerv's avatar

@vikachka Wetware is people.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
Lightlyseared's avatar

@jerv “Problem exists between keyboard and chair”

AshlynM's avatar

Only experienced hackers could possibly see your pm’s. The average computer user won’t be able to see anything. Of course, I’m assuming the staff at facebook has access to all your personal info and every email and pm ever sent to you and that you sent, which is disconcerting to say the least.

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